116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — At the Duck Pond Pavillion in Bever Park, a group of kids watched as Chuck Ungs, a naturalist from Linn County Conservation, displayed animal hides and talk about the animals who donated those hides.
Later, the kids were able to handle turtles and a snake and learn about their behaviors.
The program was part of the “Fuzzy, Furry, Slimy, Scaly” activity, one of many programs the Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department is offering kids — and adults — this summer.
Interest in the activities has exploded this year, after most of the programs were canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Angie Cole, the city’s recreation superintendent.
Many of the activities filled up quickly, and even when the department added sections for the more popular activities, waiting lists still exist for youth sports leagues and the day camp.
“Cedar Rapids is opening back up and with that, people are ready to get out and play,” Cole said.
Bever Park sports Old MacDonald’s Farm, a perennial favorite, where kids can see and/or pet chickens, goats, pigs and other farm animals.
The department also offers arts programs in painting, sculpting, and mixed-media classes for kids from 5 to 11 years at the Northwest Recreation Center, 1340 11th St. NW.
“We have everything from kids’ art programs that are just getting dirty and making crafts, to watercolor classes for adults,” Cole said. “We have quite a few adults that take those watercolor classes that really enjoy just the peacefulness and learning and painting together.”
Face masks are not required to attend the programs though they are encouraged for unvaccinated people, which includes children under 12 who aren’t eligible for the vaccine.
The city’s sports leagues for youth and adults include ones for softball, T-ball, basketball, soccer and volleyball.
Also, a kids’ day camp runs Monday through Friday through the first week of August, with a different theme each week. Themes in July include “All American,” “Games Galore,” and “Beach Party.”
Cole said the department chooses which activities to offer by evaluating the success of past ones and also by considering the popular hobbies of the time.
For example, some people stuck inside during the pandemic took up gardening and canning, so the city decided to offer classes for those activities.
“If you’re going to live in our community, you want something for your family to do together,” she said. “You want to be able to connect to other people in your community.”
Last summer, the city dreamed up the Rollin’ Recmobile to take games and activities to city parks.
It’s back this year, with stops in 13 parks each week this summer and with more activities, including spikeball, kickball, GaGa ball, an obstacle course, a bounce house, karaoke, l
The Recmobile has a free Wi-Fi hotspot, as does the Cedar Rapids Public Library Mobile Technology van, which goes along to four of the parks. The library van also offers laptops, e-readers and Ozobots, tiny robots that help kids learn coding.
Old MacDonald’s Farm
At Old MacDonald’s Farm, kids from ages 3 to 7 can visit on Tuesday mornings in July to learn about the farm animals, with activities relating to the animals.
On most Thursdays in July, kids age 6 to 10 can be a “farmer for a day” and learn how to care for the animals and perform farm chores.
The farm’s director, Megan Lopata, said the activities sell out each year.
The best part of her job, she says, is teaching children “things that they don't know and then seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when they come in.”
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