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.

 

 

LEARN

 
 
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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.

 

 

CREATE

 
 
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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.

 

 

MOVE

 

 

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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.

 

Girls’ Day at George Washington Carver National Monument

My friend Johanna is a firecracker: fun, friendly, and full of energy. Her life has been an adventure; she came to Joplin from Germany almost two decades ago and has traveled to over 20 states, which is more than many Americans can claim. I think she also knows more about our country’s history than many Americans, too.

 

Time spent with Johanna activates my wanderlust and elevates my IQ.

 

Ever since Johanna moved from Joplin to Oklahoma a few years ago, I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like. When she does visit, we try to maximize our time together by doing things that speak to our combined love of travel and history.

 

And the outdoors.

 

After all, this woman grew up with the Alps as her playground. 

 

Johanna visited Joplin recently, on an autumn weekend when the sun’s rays beamed down as strong as on a summer’s day, and the air felt balmy. We wanted to take advantage of the unseasonably warm day, so we ditched our lunch plans and instead met at a place where we could spend time outdoors basking in the sun, then venture inside to soak up history and learn something new.

 

That and wrinkle cream would keep us young, we figured.

 

We decided on a place just south of Joplin that offers heavy doses of nature therapy, as well as educational, historical, and even spiritual lessons: George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond.

 

This 240-acre park was established in 1943 and is part of the National Park Service. It’s also the first national park to be named after a non-president, as well as the first one to be dedicated to an African American.

 

It’s also one of my favorite places to visit in southwest Missouri.

 

I met Johanna at the welcome center, which houses a variety of exhibits. Although I’d been to this park numerous times before, I’d always come with my kids, finding it challenging to immerse myself in the exhibits while trying to keep track of them.

 

So coming that day with Johanna was like seeing parts of the center for the first time; specifically, the first-floor exhibit which details the biography of George Washington Carver. This time, I actually got the chance to read and learn about Carver without little hands tugging on my shirt sleeve.

 

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George Washington Carver was a slave owned by Moses and Susan Carver. The Carvers raised George on their farm in Diamond Grove after his mother was kidnapped by Confederate night-raiders when George was a baby. George was a sickly boy, so he was excused from chores and allowed to wander the woods and prairie instead, during which time he learned about native plants and developed a talent for taking care of them, earning the name of the “Plant Doctor.”

 

“Hmm,” said Johanna. “I’d always thought he was ‘The Peanut Man.’”

 

While Carver is known as “The Peanut Man” because he discovered multiple ways to use peanuts, he also invented uses for a variety of other crops. He spent his life exploring and educating, and blazed the trail for other African Americans to follow.

 

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On the second floor of the center, there’s an interactive science and nature exhibit which features examples of the animals that Carver encountered on his daily walks around the homestead, as well as native plants and the multiple uses that Carver found for them, which is extensive.

 

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Next to this area is a lab where demonstrations, like how to make peanut milk, are held on the weekend.

 

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Also upstairs is one of my favorite places at the center: the schoolroom.

 

“Check these out,” I said to Johanna, placing a 100-year-old schoolbook and an iPad-sized slate board in front of where she was seated at the wooden table. “Can you imagine what our kids would think if these were their school supplies?”

 

“I’m not sure they would understand what to do with the chalk,” she said with a chuckle.

 

Besides the novelty of looking at the teaching tools from Carver’s era, what I love most about this schoolroom is the information on its walls which offers examples of Carver acting as a humanitarian and teacher.

 

For instance, Carver the scientist never patented his inventions; he wanted everyone to have access so that they could use them.

 

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As a teacher, Carver shared eight cardinal virtues with his students:

 

1st: Be clean both inside and outside.

2nd: Who neither looks up to the rich or down to the poor.

3rd: Who loses, if needs be, without squealing.

4th: Who wins without bragging.

5th: Who is always considerate of women, children and old people.

6th: Who is too brave to lie.

7th: Who is too generous to cheat.

8th: Who takes his share of the world and lets others have theirs.

 

 

“Carver would have made a great president,” I said to Johanna.

 

 

At this point, we wanted to get outside and explore the area that inspired the great and humble Carver, so we hit the trail.

 

Before entering the forest, the ¾-mile nature trail passes a replica of the base of the cabin in which Carver was born.

 

“It says here that the cabin measured 12 feet by 12 feet,” said Johanna, reading the historical marker. “Can you imagine that?”

 

“Um, no.”

 

We continued our walk, watching leaves detach from the branches above, dance through the air, then come to rest on the forest floor. At one point, we paused on a bridge that spanned a sparkling spring and admired the reflection of the autumn sky mixed with the fallen leaves.

 

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In the silence, I thought about Carver’s quote: I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.

 

At that moment, I had adjusted the dial and was all ears.

 

That connection remained with me as I continued on the trail, observing the nature around me: the occasional twitter of songbirds, and squirrels searching earnestly for a winter hiding spot for their acorns.

 

I savored that connected feeling as we passed the Carver homestead, emerging from the forest and onto the open prairie, which provided a contrasting landscape and beauty of its own.

 

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At the end of the trail, we stopped at the bronze bust of Carver and I thought about how this former slave rose from his circumstances and forged a successful path in his life all on his own.

 

More than just a girls’ afternoon excursion, this trip to George Washington Carver National Monument had proven to be a day of education and inspiration.

 

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.   – George Washington Carver

 
 

George Washington Carver National Monument is located at 5646 Carver Road in Diamond, Missouri. Click here to visit its website.

 

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