Travelling is an amazing opportunity to teach kids about the world. Our family vacation to Prince Edward Island was a strategic choice. As beautiful and relaxing as the province is, it is a key destination for kids to learn about Canada. As much as I appreciate museums, when I travel with my family I try to get hands on and make some experiential learning happen.
If you go to PEI with your family, these are some fun activities you can do with your kids to inspire them to learn.
You can take Confederation Bridge or Northumberland Ferry to get to Prince Edward Island from Nova Scotia. We chose the ferry where I put my kids to work. My daughter asked a cashier if we could see the bridge of the ferry. After a quick call up to the captain, we were escorted up two sets of stairs to the very high-tech master control of the ferry. My daughter asked the crew a bunch of questions and furiously took notes. She learned that 600 people and 250 cars could board the ferry. It takes less than a minute to stop in an emergency. Huge barrels filled with water in the ballast balance the boat. And that the wind plays a huge role in how the ferry is steered.
The next time you take the ferry to PEI, see what you can learn from the crew.
For more information: www.ferries.ca/nova-scotia-to-prince-edward-island-ferry
When the lobster fishing season ends, Captain Mark Jenkins runs Top Notch Lobster Tours on his boat to teach landlubbers like us about lobster fishing. The three-hour tour was awesome. and even catching and holding lobsters and crabs. While trolling around Charlottedown Harbour, Captain Mark explained the rules and economics of lobster fishing, stopping a few times to pull out live lobster and crab traps. This was jam packed with learning opportunities about fishing and the importance of conservation. Here are some of the cool tidbits my kids picked up. Female lobsters have around 100,000 eggs but only two eggs ever make it to maturity. If a female lobster with eggs are caught, it must be thrown back into the ocean. It costs between $350,000 to $700,000 to buy a license to fish for lobster, but you can only buy an existing license. One claw is for cracking, one is a crushing. Lobsters molt every three years and eat their old shells. Lobsters in a cage have elastics on their claws to prevent them from fighting to the death and eating each other.
Midway through the tour, we were served a traditional PEI cold lobster dinner with a lesson on how to crack the shell!
In the fall, Captain Mark will take you out to catch a 700-pound tuna right off the coast of PEI. You can sign up to crew his boat and have the fishing experience of a lifetime.
For more information: www.markscharters.com
This was the closest thing to going to a museum I mandated on this trip. Since PEI played such a significant role in the Canadian History, my kids went through the interactive display at Founders Hall that tells the story the birth of Canada using multi-media newscasts and large sets to make history a little hipper. By the time we went through the 45-minute exhibit, my kids and I better understood the challenge of getting all the provinces to agree to become part of Canada in 1867.
For more information: www.foundershall.ca
As city slickers we take our food for granted. Alex Dockerty, a fifth generation potato farmer, invited us to his farm for a morning of pulling potatoes and tractor driving. We learned how iron oxide in the PEI earth reacts to the air and turns it red. Then my kids got busy filling up a bags of Alex’s spuds, while he explained how potatoes are grown. He showed us how to pull and dig taters by hand, and shared tales of harvest time. He let the kids (and me) drive his huge tractor and demonstrated the high tech gadgetry on board. Most importantly, he told us we should boil potatoes WITH the skin on for better taste. Who knew?
If you visit PEI, reach out to the PEI Potato Growers to see if Alex or another local farmer could host your family for a couple of hours.
For more info: www.peipotato.org
No better example of fiction coming to life than with Anne of Green Gables. No one could have guessed that L.M. Montgomery’s book about Anne of Avonlea, which was turned down four times by publishers, would keep PEI’s tourism industry afloat over 150 years after it was published. The book has sold over 50 million copies to date. My daughter was responsible for buying one of them. Along with scores of tourists, we headed to Green Gables Heritage Place in the town of Cavendish to see the original tiny wood home the author grew up in, as well as visit the Green Gables home Anne’s life was based on. My daughter was shocked to learn that Anne Shirley wasn't a real person and loved getting a first-hand look at life at Avonlea Village. While my daughter was intrigued by the old-fashioned Avonlea lifestyle, my son was inspired to write his own novel in the hopes of having an international best-selling book.
For more info: avonlea.ca
If you want to tire your kids (and yourself) out and experience a real physical challenge, spend half a day learning about high ropes at the Rise and Climb Aerial Park. With three levels to climb (literally), get ready to make your way up to the top tier 40 feet above the ground. The experience begins with a lesson on climbing from an experienced staff member. Once you're briefed, you're clipped to a safety rope so you can navigate the obstacle course made of ropes and wood. The scariest part is the 40-foot dead drop from the top of the structure to the ground. Lots of screeches heard from the jumpers.
For the little guys, there's a kids' obstacle course that isn't as high but still great fun. If you're between the ages of 6 to 100, your qualify for the high ropes fun.
For more info: www.riseandclimb.ca
The island is surprisingly small so nothing is more than an hour's drive. Make sure you plan to spend low-key family time at the stunning National Park beaches. You must stop at Cows Ice Cream and Boomburger — 2 local franchises your kids will love. We stayed at the newly renovated Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown by the water. The location is superb, the service is top notch and there's a pool!
Down the street from the hotel, make a reservation for dinner at Terre Rouge Bistro Marche, an absolutely delicious farm fresh restaurant.
Make sure you devote unstructured family time at one of the gorgeous beaches in the PEI National Park. We spent hours collecting shells and happily lazing around. On the way to Brackley Beach, stop in to the Dunes Studio Gallery & Cafe. The owners have a magnificent collection of trendy furniture and house decor made by artisans in PEI and Indonesia. Their gardens are gorgeous and the upscale casual cafe's eclectic menu is filled with scrumptious local fare.
Heading to Nova Scotia with your family? Here's a bunch of super fun activities your kids will love in Nova Scotia.
Disclosure: As a guest of Tourism PEI some of the costs for my trip were complimentary.