I've often likened teaching to canoeing. We drop our canoes into a lazy river come summertime and spend weeks rowing gently down the stream. When the calendar turns to August we notice a subtle change in the current. The water moves more swiftly, our paddling becomes more purposeful. Then Workshop Week arrives. The excitement of this time makes our pulse quicken, and we grip the oars a little tighter because we know the white-water rapids of the school year are dead ahead.

And then comes the first day of school. There's no stopping now! We row furiously to stay the course. Water sprays over the bow and the vessel lists dangerously to one side and then the other, but we paddle on because, if we don't, we'll lose our bearings and the river will swallow us. And then, before we notice it really, the tumult subsides and we get a few moments to catch our breath before encountering the next set of rapids.

These quiet moments, in my metaphor, are MEA Weekend. It's the first opportunity during the school year for students and teachers alike to take a step back and recharge, be that at the professional conference held in St. Paul, or at a cabin on the St. Croix. In case you're sticking around the Twin Cities this weekend, here some free or low-cost things you can do as a family before embarking on the next leg of your journey. 

Available Every Day Over MEA Weekend

Try geocaching for free at one of Minnesota's Demo Parks. A $5 day pass will admit you into the State Park. Everything else is provided.

The Walker Art Center is celebrating 75 years on this earth during Walktoberfest. Admission and activities are free Thursday-Sunday.

PAWS to Read with an Animal is an opportunity to curl up and read with a therapy animal at a local library. Animals will be at the Sumner Library Thursday from 5:30-7 pm, Saturday at both the North Regional Library from noon-1:30 pm and the Nokomis Library from 2:30-4:30 pm, and Sunday from 1-2:30 pm at the St. Louis Park Library.

The Foshay Museum and Observation Deck

The Foshay Museum and Observation Deck

See the city from a totally different perspective at the Foshay Museum and Observation Deck. Adults pay $8 for the view, youths are $5 and kids 12 and under are free. The deck is open 10 am-6 pm Thursday through Saturday and 11 am-5 pm Sunday.  

Thursday, October 16

Kids 8 and up can take a free Beginner Archery class from 10 am-noon at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

The University of Minnesota Raptor Center brings an owl, hawk, falcon and a bald eagle to the Minneapolis Central Library today at 10 am.

After meeting the birds of prey at the library, step onto Nicollet Mall for the Minneapolis Farmers Market.

Hennepin County Libraries have partnered with ArtStart to offer kids in grades K-6 "Junk Paleontology" from 10:30 to noon in Brooklyn Center, and "Rube Goldberg Marble Machines" from 1 to 2:30 pm in St. Louis Park. For those in grades 7-12, there's a Comic Strips class in Hopkins from 2-4 pm. If Opera is more your thing, visit Opera Viva! at the Nokomis Library at 6:30 pm.

You can tour the Landmark Center from 11 am-noon or the Star Tribune printing facility at 2 or 4 pm. Star Tribune tours must be scheduled ahead of time at tours@startribune.com or by calling (612) 673-4636.

The Minnesota History Center hosts a fun exhibit titled, "Toys of the 50's, 60's, and 70's." There is also History HiJinx, a robot-themed craft program, today and tomorrow from 11 am-3 pm. Admission to the center is $11 for adults and $6 for kids 6 and older, but a $75 household membership will gain you admission here and 25 other historic locations around the state for the next year.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is free after 4:30 pm today. Kids 12 and under are always free, but this will save you $12 for each adult. Downloadable self-guided children's adventures are available here.

Friday, October 17

You can tour the Star Tribune printing facility at 9 am or 2 pm. Star Tribune tours must be scheduled ahead of time at tours@startribune.com or by calling (612) 673-4636.

Hennepin County Libraries have partnered with ArtStart to offer kids in grades K-6 "Junk Paleontology" from 10:30 to noon in Rogers. For those in grades 7-12, there's Non-Traditional Comic Arts in Minnetonka from 10 am-noon, or Comic Strips class in Brooklyn Park from 3-5 pm.

The Minnesota History Center hosts a fun exhibit titled, "Toys of the 50's, 60's, and 70's." There is also History HiJinx, a robot-themed craft program, today from 11 am-3 pm. Admission to the center is $11 for adults and $6 for kids 6 and older, but a $75 household membership will gain you admission here and 25 other historic locations around the state for the next year.

Check out a Gopher Softball exhibition game vs. Concordia-St. Paul today. Games will be played at 5 and 7 pm at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium just east of Dinkytown. Before or after the game, stop by Annie's Parlour for a burger and malt.

Saturday, October 18

Help staff at the Lowry Nature Center safely capture, study, band and release birds from 9 am-noon.

Tour the Star Tribune printing facility at 9 am. Star Tribune tours must be scheduled ahead of time at tours@startribune.com or by calling (612) 673-4636.

There's free pumpkin painting at the Minneapolis Farmers Market all day today, or at least until the pumpkins run out.

Drop in to the Tamarack Nature Center in St. Paul between 10 am and noon to check out Worms at Work. "Discovery Hosts" will be on hand to guide your visit through numerous hands-on stations.

Catch a "Childish Film" at Fall Frolics at the Minneapolis Central Library from 10 am-noon. You are invited to come in costume and enjoy a unique film, art activities and a complimentary snack.

Maybe you've seen the seed art in the Agriculture Building at the State Fair? Try it for yourself at See-D Mosaic at the Linden Hills Library today from 11 am-12:30 pm

The Arboretum's Amazing Hedge Maze

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum offers "Fantastic Foliage" activites in their Learning Center today and tomorrow from noon-4 pm. Adults $12, kids 12 and under are always free. 

Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden presents Magnificent Mushrooms from 1-2 pm. You will learn about the structure of mushrooms and learn to ID some common varieties. That way you can avoid ones that make you really big or really small.

A Weisguide will lead you on a free tour of the Weisman Art Museum, located on the campus of the University of Minnesota, from 1-2 pm today. Topics will include current exhibits as well as information about one of the most unique buildings in the Twin Cities.

The Works has teamed up with Hennepin County Libraries to offer STEM Exploration Day at the Franklin Library from 2-4 pm today! Create a sound sandwich, experiment with rainbow glasses and build a bridge. You had me at sandwich. 

Rainbow Crow is a Lenape story that asks, "How far would you go for the good of the community?" Hopefully you'd go as far as Steppingstone Theater to see this story come to life onstage. This is a pay-what-you-can performance from 3-5 pm, with a suggested donation of at least $5.

The four teams that make up Minnesota Roller Girls battle each other tonight in a mini tournament titled, "Fresh Meat." Despite the name, I am assured by one of the roller girls that this is indeed a family-friendly event. Doors to the Roy Wilkins Auditorium open at 6:30 pm, roller derby starts at 7:30 pm. The first 200 fans get a free t-shirt. Tickets range from $13-18 for ages 10 and up and benefit the Ronald McDonald House and the Ann Bancroft Foundation.

The Gopher Women's Soccer team takes on the Wisconsin Badgers at 7 pm at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on the St. Paul Campus. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for youth.

Sunday, October 19

The Minnesota Children's Museum in St. Paul is free today from 9 am-5 pm.

There will be a free Wood Turning Demonstration at the Landmark Center from noon-1 pm today in the Gallery of Wood Art. I'm guessing there's more to this than flipping a log over on the fire.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum offers "Fantastic Foliage" activites in their Learning Center today from noon-4 pm. Adults $12, kids 12 and under are always free. 

History is on display for free today at the Bell Museum of Natural History. The Bell is open today from noon-5 pm.

A Weisguide will lead you on a free tour of the Weisman Art Museum, located on the campus of the University of Minnesota, from 1-2 pm today. Topics will include current exhibits as well as information about one of the most unique buildings in the Twin Cities.

Bats are the topic at the Carl Kroening Interpretive Center from 1-3 pm, and Minnesota Trees star at the Richardson Nature Center from 3-4 pm during Free Family Fun Day. That's today!

The Works has teamed up with Hennepin County Libraries to offer STEM Exploration Day at the Rockford Road Library from 2-4 pm today! Create a sound sandwich, experiment with rainbow glasses and build a bridge. You had me at sandwich. 

The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden presents a free tour of the Quaking Bog from 3-4 pm.

For more ideas, click on "Older Posts." Many previous blog entries are available year-round. Have a great weekend!!

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