Expanding Young Minds: Weekend Programs for Kids

Learning doesn’t have to stop at end of school week (although kids might want it to). Many places in the Joplin area offer weekend programs and activities that are so inventive and engaging that your kids will be having too much fun to realize that they’re actually learning something – on the weekend.



George Washington Carver National Monument646 Carver Road, Diamond, MO

Known as the “Peanut Man” and the “Plant Doctor,” George Washington Carver grew up exploring nature around his home in Diamond, Missouri, where a national monument was later built in honor of his scientific and agricultural contributions to society, which include the discovery of over 300 uses of the peanut. On weekend lab demo days, kids can recreate some of Carver’s experiments, such as making milk out of peanuts (read more here). At the Agricultural School on Wheels program, they can learn about Carver’s Jesup Wagon which carried agricultural tools to area farmers. Other weekend programs here include Raptors of Prey, where kids (and adults) can learn about and see live raptors. For upcoming programs, click here.



Making peanut milk at Carver National Monument

Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

Kids can have hands-on learning experiences at this garden center. They can plant seeds and transplant flowers and veggies to take home at the Little Seedlings in the Garden program, and learn about one of the most intriguing plants (and take one home) at the Kids Venus Flytrap Workshop. For upcoming programs, click here.


Joplin Public Library1901 E. 20th Street, Joplin

There’s something entertaining and educational for kids of all ages at the Joplin Public Library. Little ones, ages 1 to 5 years, are invited to the monthly Saturday Explore & Play program, where they will learn early literacy skills through play at exploration stations. Older kids and teens, in grades 6 to 12, are welcome to socialize and create at the Give it a Shot programs, where they can construct objects using different materials like Legos and littleBits electronic pieces (for building Droids). For upcoming programs, click here.


Southeast Kansas Nature Center3511 South Main Street, Galena, KS

Kansas! Why is something in Kansas on this list? Because this gem of a nature center is only 15 minutes from downtown Joplin. The center offers occasional weekend programs, like Bat Saturday, where kids can learn about these creatures through interactive displays, crafts, and activities. Afterward, take a walk on the trails outside and peek into Schermerhorn cave to see if you can spy any bats yourself. For upcoming programs, click here.



Learning about snakes at the Southeast Kansas Nature Center

Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center201 Riviera Drive, Joplin

Kids love to visit this center to explore the interactive nature discovery area, and to pet the center’s beloved bunny Trevor. The center also offers a variety of nature programming geared toward different age groups. The Preschool Nature Connections series introduces children, ages 3 to 6, to topics like What Lives in the Water? and Jeepers, Spring Peepers. Other programs include Let’s Be Tree Heroes with Dr. Seuss and the Lorax (ages 4 to 10), and the annual Christmas Bird Count (ages 7 and up). For upcoming programs, click here.



Crackpot Pottery & Art Studio3820 East 20th Street, Joplin

Kids ages 10 and up are welcome to participate in a 2-hour drop-in session at this pottery studio where they will receive personalized instruction. The session fee includes materials, plus firing and glazing of the pottery. For more information, click here.


Firehouse Pottery112 South Main Street, Joplin

Little ones can listen to a story, then paint a piece of pottery based on that story at Firehouse’s monthly Storytime Pottery program. Other children’s programs at Firehouse include the Superhero Event, the Trolls Pajama Party, and Kid-Parent Date Day. For upcoming programs, click here.



Painting pottery at Firehouse

Phoenix Fired Art, 1603 South Main Street, Joplin

The Saturday Morning Drop-In Class at this pottery studio is geared toward kids ages 8 and older. The class runs from 9:30 am to noon, and no appointment is necessary. Clay, tools, firing, and instruction are included in the cost. For more information, click here.



Making pottery at Phoenix Fired Art

RSVPaint, 223 Third Street, Joplin

This paint-and-sip studio is known for offering evening painting classes (and cocktails) to adults, but on Saturday afternoons, it closes the bar and welcomes children of all ages at the Family Paint class (they must have an adult with them, though). Depending on the nature of the class, there may be a minimum age requirement; for instance, the minimum age for the Wooden Sign Painting class is 8 years old. All classes are taught step-by-step, so no experience is necessary. For upcoming sessions, click here.


Spiva Center for the Arts223 West Third Street, Joplin

There are a variety of classes for kids to choose from at this art hub of the Four States. Saturday classes include Mini Makers (ages 3 to 5), and the Tween Workshop (ages 12 to 14). (The class for ages 6 to 11, Creation Station, is offered during the week on Tuesday afternoons). Other programs include Wand Making (ages 7 and older), and photography classes (divided into three age groups). For upcoming programs, click here.


So, the next weekend that you hear your kids say, “I’m bored,” you can refer to this list and find something constructive, educational, and fun to keep their growing minds stimulated.


To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com

Get Creative: Weekend Fun Isn’t Just for Kids!

To me, the arrival of the weekend is like savoring a piece of rich, dark chocolate after a day of drinking green smoothies and eating salmon and vegetables. It’s a treat, a reward for all the hard work we adults do at our professional and parenting jobs during the week.


We celebrate our weekend time in a variety of ways. We watch movies, meet friends for dinner, go on trail runs or, conversely, sit on our bums and scroll through Facebook for hours. All of these ways to unwind from the workweek have merit, but we often find ourselves repeating the same activities over and over again.


Then we get in a rut. And somehow the weekend is just not that rewarding anymore.


That’s when it’s time to try something new, something that challenges us and enables us to discover skills and talents that we didn’t know we had. That’s when it’s time to learn.


There are many area organizations that offer weekend programs for adults in art, history, gardening, nature, yoga, and more. Look over this list and see if something stirs your soul to learn, create, and move.





Making peanut milk in the lab at Carver


George Washington Carver National Monument, 646 Carver Road, Diamond, MO

Just a 20-minute drive south of Joplin, this national park celebrates the life of George Washington Carver, a former slave who became an accomplished scientist, teacher, and philanthropist. The visitor center here offers programs which honor Carver’s passion for nature and learning. Channel your inner scientist at a lab demonstration (I made peanut milk at the one I went to), attend a special program such as Wonders of the Night Sky or the Plant-Based Cooking Workshop, or listen and learn at special presentations such as Women in Carver’s Life or Encouraging the Next Generation. Click here for upcoming programs.


Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

More than just a great place to buy healthy plants (it’s where I buy mine every spring!), Joplin Greenhouse is also a learning center, offering workshops such as Beginning Beekeeping and Hipster Houseplants. Click here for upcoming programs.


Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center, 201 Riviera Drive, Joplin

In addition to having some of the area’s most scenic hiking trails, Wildcat Glades has a visitor center which contains a nature discovery area and classrooms for special programming. Learn about local nature at Discover Winter Birds or Ozark Chinquapin: A Lost Treasure, or hone your nature photography skills at the Behind the Lens workshop. Click here for upcoming programs.





Painting pet portraits at RSVPaint


Crackpot Pottery & Art Studio, 3820 East 20th Street, Joplin

This laid-back studio invites you to learn how to make pottery at your own leisure at the Saturday drop-in class (read about my experience here), or attend scheduled programs in a variety of mediums, like the Birdhouse Workshop, Watercolor Painting, or Jewelry-Making Basics. Click here for upcoming programs.


Firehouse Pottery, 112 South Main Street, Joplin

This paint-your-own pottery studio makes it easy to individualize a piece of art. Drop in during studio hours, select an unfinished piece of pottery and paint colors, then personalize your creation. The staff at Firehouse will guide you along the way. Bring your special someone for Friday night Date Night, or your BFF for Girls’ Night (which is on Tuesdays, but I’m including this so you can plan a weekday escape, too! Read about my experience here.) Click here for upcoming programs.


Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

Yes, Joplin Greenhouse makes the list again! This time, it’s for hands-on workshops where you can create things like Fairy Gardens, Macramé Hangers, and Christmas Wreaths. Click here for upcoming programs.


Phoenix Fired Art, 1603 South Main Street, Joplin

This clay studio also offers a Saturday morning drop-in class for those who want to learn to make pottery (read about my experience here). For a unique learning and socializing event, come to the Friday Film, where a potluck meal is served, followed by a viewing of an arts-related documentary film, and then a discussion. Click here for upcoming programs.


RSVPaint, 223 Third Street, Joplin

Here’s another studio where you can create and socialize. Also, at RSVPaint you can imbibe in your favorite drink as you create (bring your own, or purchase one at the studio’s bar). RSVPaint offers a variety of class theme. I’ve been to one where my friends and I painted designs on wine glasses, one where I painted a portrait of my dog (click here to read about it), and a Date Night class where my husband and I each painted a panel that, when put next to the other, made a complete picture (read about it here). Click here (then scroll down) for upcoming classes.


Spiva Center for the Arts, 223 West Third Street, Joplin

Since 1947, Spiva has served as the art hub of the Four States, thanks to the many classes and programs its offers the community. Try Basic Drawing, Fun & Funky Upcycled Hats, Pysanky Egg Decorating, or the Fused Glass Tray class (read about my experience here). Click here for upcoming programs.






soar open jump

Play on trampolines at Soar’s ExSOARcise class

4 States Yoga and Restoration Center, 2615 North Range Line Road, Joplin

In addition to a weekend Vinyasa Yoga class, 4 States Yoga offers Barre and Tai Chi classes, as well as special workshops, like Aerial Yoga and Self-Defense. Click here for classes and programs.


Downtown Yoga, 501 South Wall Avenue, Joplin

If you’re feeling the need to de-stress after a hectic week, try one of the weekend classes at Downtown Yoga, such as Restorative Yoga, Hot Yoga, or Power Yoga (read about my experience here). Click here for classes and programs.


Soar Trampoline Park, 1502 South Madison Street, Webb City, MO

Get a cardio workout while jumping on trampolines! Soar’s 45-minute Saturday morning ExSOARcise class includes jumping and floor exercises, and is open to all experience levels. Click here for more information.


If you’re content with your current weekend plans, kudos to you. But if you ever find yourself in a rut, come back to this list. There’s sure to be something at one of these locations that will beckon you to learn, create, or move.


To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.


I Am Joplin: Melodee Colbert-Kean

Back in grade school, my friends and I formed a club called the Busy Bees. Our goal was to perform service projects in the community. While I do remember several afterschool club meetings held at my house, I don’t recall ever doing any community projects. While our intentions were good, we Bees weren’t really that busy.


A few decades later, I found the person whom I think could have led our club to accomplish great things in the community. She’s Melodee Colbert-Kean, a Queen Bee buzzing with seemingly endless energy and a passion for service. While I can’t transport her back in time to mentor our club, I certainly appreciate all the things that she does for the place I now call home: Joplin.


melodee history

Melodee’s career highlights include serving as Joplin’s first African-American mayor, and as President of the National League of Cities. She has met President Obama and traveled the world as a representative of Joplin. With all of these accomplishments under her belt at only age 50, I’d assumed that she’d been interested in civil service most of her life.


I was wrong.


Serving in Joplin Government

Melodee’s foray into city government began in 2005, when City of Joplin Council Member Jim West held a meeting with members of the black community to see if anyone was interested in running for one of the open council seats. Melodee was convinced that some of the older citizens at the meeting would be interested, but no one volunteered. Recognizing the importance of the black community having a voice at the council, Melodee (somewhat reluctantly) answered the call.


Melodee has been the voice of her community since she was elected to the council in 2006, and her term will expire in 2020. It’s a position that she doesn’t take lightly. To prepare for council meetings, she reviews the meeting packet, talks to community members, and drives around the city to to educate herself about the issues to be discussed. “It’s very involved because you’re representing the people,” she says. “You have to be connected to the community.”


When citizens approach Melodee with issues, the first thing she asks them is if they are registered voters. To Melodee, this is necessary because “if you’re not voting, we really don’t have a lot of things we can do.” The second thing she asks is for them to provide at least one solution. “It makes people stop and think because it’s easy to complain,” says Melodee. “But, how about a serious solution? Your everyday citizens have some of the best ideas.”


When Melodee was elected Mayor of Joplin in 2012, she served as a conduit between Joplin and the rest of the country – and world – during the crucial post-tornado recovery period. Oh, and she happened to do this while raising her youngest daughter Alissa (who’s 11 now), proving once again that she’s a Queen Bee.


During this time, Melodee was also highly involved with the National League of Cities, an organization representing 19,000 cities whose leaders strive to make a difference in the places where they live. She served on various committees in the league, ran for a board position, then was encouraged to run for an officer’s seat, which she won. She progressed from Second Vice President, to Vice President, then finally to President in 2015.


Through her civil service, Melodee has been able to travel around the world, representing Joplin and offering others the insight she gained from leading our city in the aftermath of a crisis. Through these journeys, she’s learned a lot herself. Her most memorable trip was to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. “If you get a chance to visit a culture outside of your own, my goodness! The wealth of knowledge, information, and appreciation you have for people outside of yourself is amazing!”


Serving Comfort

While Melodee recognizes the value of visiting other countries and cultures, she understands and honors the importance of the people and traditions of her hometown of Joplin. So much so, that she’s opened a restaurant that serves the kind of food that she grew up with. It’s called ME’s Place (named after her: Melodee Elaine), and it’s a labor of love that she shares with her husband William. “We’re the true mom-and-pop.”


melodee mes

ME’s Place is located on Broadway Street, which is off the beaten path as far as the Joplin dining scene goes. But this was a deliberate choice; this was the neighborhood in which Melodee went to school as a child. “To me, it was more of a sense of giving back to the community by opening a business on Broadway,” says Melodee. “Not only was it the original Route 66, but it used to be thriving with businesses, and the majority of them were black businesses because this was the original East Town – the only area that black people could live in at that time. It meant a lot to me to open it here.”


Melodee’s passion for preserving the history of Joplin’s East Town is reflected in a small room at ME’s Place, where poster boards covered with newspaper clippings and photos of important figures in the neighborhoods history are displayed.


The food served at ME’s Place also reflects the heritage of this Joplin neighborhood, along with a bit of flavor from Louisville, Kentucky, where William is from. His specialty is fork-tender smothered pork chops, which are served on Fridays. He also makes Southern-fried catfish, meatloaf, and sweet tea. “People rave over that tea,” says Melodee.


Chicken and dumplings, as well as peach cobbler, are Melodee’s signature dishes. This is the place to come when you want comfort, to taste something like what Grandma used to make. The food here “brings people back,” says Melodee. “You center them back on family, on good feelings. To be able to do that is amazing.”


Serving the Community

Believe it or not, but the aforementioned gazillion things that Melodee does aren’t the only ways she serves the community. She’s also been on the boards of several Joplin organizations, including Joplin Metro Credit Union, George Washington Carver National Monument, and Missouri Southern State University. Her experience on these boards has helped her hone her listening skills. “I learned how to be quiet,” she says. I learned that it’s okay to disagree, but be respectful.”


She also felt inspired to establish a business called Prayerful Portions. The name came to her in the middle of the night, long before she figured out what she was going to do with it. Eventually this business came to be an umbrella under which she and other members of her family (including her tech guru son) consult with people and small businesses to help them figure out what they are trying to do and, more importantly, why they want to do it.


Serving Her Family

It’s obvious that Melodee is passionate about her service to her community, but there’s an unmistakable light that sparkles in her eyes when she talks about the family that she’s created with her husband William, “an all-around good guy,” according to Melodee. The Colbert-Kean clan consists of Melodee’s two adult children, Tyler (a Marine sergeant stationed in Okinawa, Japan), and Typhanee (an educator in Nashville, Tennessee); William’s daughter Amber (a medical student in Tennessee); and the couple’s daughter Alissa (a middle schooler).


Serving Her Soul

Melodee and I talked at length about the things that she does to serve the community, but I had one lingering question: What does she do to serve her own soul?


Ideally, she likes to visit the beach to unwind, but when she can’t get there, she relaxes by reading, doing puzzles, spending time with her family, and listening to music. “Music is my center. It brings me back to focus, or transports me off somewhere.”


In fact, Melodee is so passionate about music that she even DJs at parties, weddings, and other events. “My mom did right when she named me Melodee,” she laughs.


Serving the Hive

Now that you have learned about Melodee’s many contributions to the Joplin community, can you see why I think she would have made a great mentor for my club, the Busy Bees? She’s a woman who gets things done and who inspires others to make their community a better place. Like she says,”If you’re going to be someplace, why not make the best of it?”


Well put, Queen Bee.


ME’s Place is located at 1203 Broadway Street. Click here to follow it on Facebook; click here to read about my experience there.


To read about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.