Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The National Cherry Blossom Festival With Tweens

One of our tweens' favorite annual events in Washington is the National Cherry Blossom Festival. This year it runs from March 26 to April 10, and it will be especially poignant given the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan (the Festival highlights our historic friendship with the Japanese people). There will be a Stand With Japan Walk planned for 630pm on March 24, and all donations will benefit the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief Fund.

Here are our tweens' picks for the best activities to do during this event:
  • View the cherry blossoms from a unique vantage point: by paddle boat in the Tidal Basin. During this busy season, you can reserve a paddle boat in advance online, and some of the best photos are those taken from the water. Tip: bring sunscreen, sunglasses and water - it can get really hot out on the water on a sunny day.
  • Visit the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery for a unique day of art on March 27th. The gallery will host a special ImaginAsia workshop geared for tweens (ages 8-14) that explores how spring flowers are used in Japanese design. Tweens will complete a project painting paper parasols based upon their study of the galleries. (Our tweens took part in two ImaginAsia camp programs last summer and are clamoring to return - they love the staff and galleries.)
For younger tweens, the National Park Service will offer a special "Blooming Junior Ranger" program, and if your tweens collect Silly Bandz, this year you can purchase special cherry blossom festival-themed Silly Bandz from the gift shop at the base of the Washington Monument.

If you can't make it to Washington for the festivities, your crafty tween will enjoy this project at home: cherry blossom treat cards. This idea is from Family Fun magazine and while they recommend it for Valentine's Day, we thought it would be perfect for use for a spring holiday too. Here are the instructions:
  1. Gather your materials: scissors, solid and printed cardstock/scrapbook paper, and some lollipops
  2. Cut 2 petal shapes from the solid cardstock or scrapbook paper (to see what real cherry blossoms look like, check out the National Park Services live "blossom cam", or the petal shapes in the Flower Shapes kit from the Paper-Source would work too (and be faster). These form the outer petals of your blossom.
  3. Cut out a smaller petal shape from the printed cardstock/scrapbook paper. This forms the inner petal.
  4. Cut out two leaves that are long enough to be seen when beneath the outer petal shapes. You'll write messages on these later.
  5. Stack the paper in this order: 2 leaves, 2 outer petals, 1 inner petal.
  6. Using the lollipop stick, pierce through the center of the stack starting at the center of the inner petal.
  7. Fan out the petals and leaves and write a message to the card's recipient on one or both of the leaves.
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