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Keeping kids busy—and their minds sharp—during the mid-winter blues

Siblings Chandler and Maddy Perry eagerly await their next instruction.

Siblings Chandler and Maddy Perry eagerly await their next instruction.

A mid-winter afternoon at the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum seems cold and eeriely quiet from the outside.

Step inside the buildings, however, and there’s a stark contrast: excited, interested children making use of the long winter months.

If you go:

Snowball, a series of free or low-cost events, runs until the end of February. The last Science Saturdays and Winter Adventure Race will take place at the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23.

For more information on events, visit borderlessnorth.org/events/2013-snowball-celebrating-winter-in-the-north-country/

On Saturday, Feb. 16, a group of eight kids learned about the “science of snow”—that is, imitation snow created through a mix of water and polymer—and what happens when it reacts with basic household items like vinegar.

There were robots, too, and even a snow catapult.

These days of learning are part of a series dubbed “Science Saturdays,” aimed at keeping kids’ minds active as the chilling winter cold tends to force them indoors, while temptation gives way to less-stimulating activities such as television or video games.

The weekly series is part of a month-long event called Snowball, which also gets kids reading, exercising and making art while they wait for springtime.

“It’s all about having fun in February,” said Amy Bonn, a volunteer at the event.

It worked, too. One participant, second grader Max Schaefer, begged his mother for permission to go outside to see what would happen if he mixed the polymer with real snow.

The children weren’t just there to learn about science, though.

On the other end of the winter-fun spectrum was the brainchild of the Clinton County Youth Bureau and the Town of Plattsburgh—a quarter-mile long obstacle course which consisted of plastic shed roofs, tractor tires, and a wooden frame containing a rather complex-looking assortment of bungee cords.

The project was completed for just $800 by using felled trees and items from the old Plattsburgh Air Force Base and was spearheaded by Clinton County Youth Bureau Director Molly Flynn, who has built a positive reputation in working with children.

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