By Alexander Mirabella
Chairman, Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders
When the last school bell rings for the summer, many parents continue to look for opportunities to keep their children in engaged in learning. Fortunately, right here in Union County there are many free and affordable activities that help youngsters refresh their academic skills while savoring the enjoyment of the summer season.
Some of these activities are familiar ones, such as the summer reading programs at our local public libraries. Many of these go beyond books to include hands-on play and creative exercises that make it fun for young children to keep tuned up.
Perhaps less well known is Union County’s Trailside Nature and Science Center, at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside. This state of the art class natural history museum is open seven days a week (except holidays) from noon to 5:00 p.m. and admission is free for all ages.
Trailside is packed with exhibits designed for busy hands and curious minds. Children can explore at their own pace, which makes it a perfect spur-of-the-moment activity to fill up a rainy afternoon.
The museum also offers a popular, modestly priced Wednesday matinee series for children ages four and up (for ticket information and a virtual tour visit ucnj.org/trailside or call 1-908-789-3670).
In good weather you can combine a trip to Trailside with a family hike through the rustic trails of the Watchung Reservation, or stroll over to the newly renovated Loop Playground just a few steps away.
For youths age 11 to 17, the Union County College campus in Cranford offers popular topics as well as academic subjects. This summer the schedule includes classes on creating Web pages, comic books, video games, stop motion films and even apps (information: ucc.edu/go/youth-programs).
A relatively new resource in Union County is the Union County Performing Arts Center, located in our beautifully restored historic theater in the heart of the downtown Rahway arts district. This summer UCPAC is offering a photography camp for children in grades 5 to 8, and a musical theater camp for grades k to 8 (information: ucac.org).
We have also expanded our recreation offerings for children with autism and other disabilities, in accordance with my Chairman’s Initiatives for 2012. To find out more about these programs, call 908-527-4806 or visit ucnj.org/parks.
Of course, our Union County parks are also full of free and modestly priced opportunities to exercise the body as well as the mind all summer long. Children ages 8 to 15 can play ball with the Union County Baseball Association (visit ucba-nj.org), and we also offer swimming, archery, golf and much more (visit ucnj.org/parks for a complete list).
For informational video tours of Union County programs and facilities, visit ucnj.org/videochannel. You can also take advantage of social media to stay up to date on all of our summer offerings, by following us on Facebook or Twitter.
For information on all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org or call the Public Info Line toll free, 1-877-424-1234.
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