Monday, July 7, 2014

Make Your Own College Tour

On our summer to-do list was “find the turtles and dairy at College Park.”  It sounds like some environmental adventure, but it’s not.  My kids, specifically my oldest daughter, Elle, had decided that they wanted to go on their own scavenger hunt across the UM College Park campus, in search of the Terrapin (“Terp”) painted statues across the campus and get a scoop of ice cream.  You’ve seen these painted statues, often a public works/arts/public fundraising project in various cities – an animal decorated in all kinds of themes and scattered through the streets.  Wandering through DC, you may spot a multi-color panda, donkey, or elephant on the street.

The flagship campus has their school mascot, a terrapin, painted and waving at passers-by around the university.  We had no map and the kids basically relied on their memory of where they thought they had seen them on previous trips to campus (basketball games, school trips, and alum activities with my husband, the proud Terp) and where it seemed reasonable (to my kids) that they should be.  We wandered fromm the Comcast Center to the main library, looking for these decorated turtles.
My favorite terp was the Kermit the Frog, in honor of UM alum, Jim Henson
Maryland also makes it’s own ice cream in the creamery operated by the College of Agriculture.  Somehow, we’ve missed getting a scoop on other visits, except Breeze who had some during a summer camp.  The Dairy's ice cream was really good – just sweet enough, full of mix-in ingredients – you know, the s’mores ice cream had lots of chocolate, graham, and marshmallow; the birthday cake flavor had good chunks of cake with frosting blended in.  I had “Fear the Turtle” – vanilla ice cream with white chocolate, pecans, caramel, crème de cacao, and triple sec.  We each had one scoop, which I have to say, was more than the normal commercial scoop – and about half the price.  A pretty good deal.

While in the student union, we came upon a small art installation which attracted the kids with its headphones hanging below video screens.  The exhibit was "Juke" by the artist Jefferson Pinder, a series of videos of African-American persons lip-syncing to a song not typically sang by an African-American person.  According to the accompanying placard, the exhibit "questions the perceived racial categories in music and asks...'is there black music?'"  One art exhibit, the kids can handle that.

We generally wait until kids are ready to fill out college applications before taking them on a college tour, but these mini-towns can be a fun place to wander around even when the kids are younger.  Of course, we first think of the sports teams and their games, but also consider all the majors and their related buildings and exhibits – music performances, art exhibits, farms, libraries, chapels, and athletic facilities.  And if there’s an agriculture college – ice cream or other agriculture products. My alma mater, UDelaware sells Blue Hen wool yarn, shorn from the sheep on the farm.  Many of these buildings and exhibits are open to the public and offer affordable options for a family outing.  And shhh… don’t let the kids in on this part – they might even learn something along the way.

So for your next close to home day out, check out your local university.

After our road trip vacation, summer 2014, I am adding the MIT Museum and Harvard Square to the list of great college visits.  If your family enjoys science museums - MIT has to be on your list if you're ever in Boston.

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