Blasting into Summer at COSI

The family and I have been working on the summer bucket list, as time permits, and this past weekend we had the opportunity to take the girls to COSI for the day. Just about an hour drive from Dayton, Columbus always has things going on and COSI is a favorite no matter what time of year for a quick day trip.

It worked out that we could go while the Big Machines exhibit was out. Kids (and adults) got the chance to climb into all sorts of construction equipment and even get to work the arms on a few of them. It’s an annual event so it won’t be back until next June but Farm Days, August 9-13, will feature tractors and combines, a chance to meet farmers, and even get to milk a fiberglass cow. Check back on COSI’s website every so often to find out what special exhibits are being planned.

My oldest, Kelsey, loved getting right into the chairs and making things go. Folks from Operating Engineers Local 18 were on hand to help kids get in and out of the equipment and show them how to use the arms. It was great for kids to see both men and women skilled at working with these powerful machines.

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Back inside, we spent the most time in three exhibits: Be the Astronaut, Gadgets, and Little Kidspace. In between we checked out fun hallway exhibits, activities, and shows that had the girls building arch bridges and learning about recycling different materials, feeling electrostatic shock, identifying insects, and making a drum beat in time with their heart beat. Kelsey just really excited about the High Wire Unicycle so we may have to look into that more next time we visit.

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Be the Astronaut is part of COSI’s Cosmic Summer programming running through September 4, 2017. In addition to the interactive exhibit, there is a giant screen movie and planetarium show exploring the future of space exploration. This particular exhibit is geared towards older kids and adults more than my two, but they still enjoyed the touch screen puzzles and trying to fly space crafts and rovers.

The girls have been interested in all thing space lately so this was a great chance to let them pretend to be astronauts for a little while. My husband had fun flying space crafts, too. With plenty of stations, there was no waiting around and everyone got to play on any style of console they wanted. We capped off our day with some astronaut ice cream from the gift shop.

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The girls could have spent all day in the Gadgets exhibit (Facebook Live video here) if we had let them. They had a blast while learning about motion and mechanics. The girls launched balls across the room, pulled themselves up with pulleys (video here), explored how gears work, and made their own creations with large foam pieces.

We spent a good amount of time in this room and still didn’t see every display. We’ll have to make time to check out the Gadget Café next time, too, to get to take apart an appliance.

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I definitely see why a membership to COSI would be a good investment. Little Kidspace was yet another space the girls could have spent all day in. It’s designed for kids 6 and under to give the youngest kiddos a space without older kids. It has several play spaces to pretend to be everything from an ambulance driver, to life on a farm , to housing construction.

We more or less made a beeline straight to the end with the water and art spaces. My girls have always enjoyed playing with water – at home a bucket of water can entertain them for three hours! In the Splish Splash area they experimented with floating items, directing water flow, and filling and dumping. For the older infants, they have a table with built in chairs and little streams of water that was honestly the best thing to sit and watch all day.

The art space was another big hit with open invitations to paint, make collages with found items, and play with color mixing. Kelsey jumped right on the climbing wall every chance she got. When it was finally time to go, we had to show a slip of paper that we received on the way to ensure we were leaving with the same number of kids we came in with.

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A couple of tips to help you plan your visit to COSI:

  • Parking fills up quick. This may be elevated once they finish construction on the new underground parking, but for now, be prepared to walk a bit.
  • You can pack a lunch or but one. They are tables to sit out inside and out to eat. There are plenty of restaurants in Columbus and near COSI but if you don’t want to leave the building, keep it simple and order from the quick serve onsite. They have a few kid friendly options that make pictures with food and a selection of meals for adults and other snacks.
  • Bring a bag. You won’t want to need to go back to the car if you can help it or lose anything so bring a backpack or tote to let yourself be hands free while hanging on to the hats, snacks, and odds and ends the kids pick up. They do also have storage lockers available for rent.
  • Do a little research. Take a look at the exhibits on the website before you head out and pick a top three of exhibits your family would be most interested in. There are so many things to see and do you may not get a chance to see and do all of it. At the same time, don’t be surprised if an area catches their attention and you end up spending 30 minutes at one activity.

We had a great family day at COSI and I want you to get the chance to take your crew there for the day, too! Gather your crew and explore space through the eyes of an astronaut, with three amazing experiences this summer at COSI.

Enter to win!

Two winners will get a four pack of tickets to COSI! To enter, just visit COSI’s website and then come back here and comment on what your family would be most interested in exploring.

Enter HERE through Rafflecopter to make it official and earn extra entries. Giveaway ends on July 11, 2017 at 11:59pm. Good luck!

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Domesticating Michelle was compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Domesticating MichelleCOSI Ticket Giveaway

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Above and Beyond for Kids

Today I had the pleasure of getting a tour of the new patient tower at Dayton Children’s Hospital. I’ve been watching this new part of the building in progress off the side of the highway so it was very exciting to get a sneak peek inside. While my girls have not ended up needing treatment at Dayton Children’s Hospital to date, it is where we would go should we need specialized pediatric care so I’m happy to know that they have the best facilities and newest equipment possible.

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Modern Design

The modern design and kid-friendly features greet you at the main entrance with spaces for kids to be kids in the lobby. Parents and kids alike were having fun playing with the centerpiece of the lobby, The Dragonflyer – an homage to the dragonflies buzzing around Huffman Prairie, where the Wright Brothers tested their flying machine, with bike wheels as feet and biplane wings. The lights on the wings and spinning propellers as eyes carry over into the Take Flight Gallery.

Looking up in the lobby gives you a view of the four large sky lights that are framed by color changing lights. Up on the fourth floor is the Sky Deck, a play area with soft flooring, xylophones, and seating around the sky lights so you can peek down into the lobby. You can also see work by local artists hanging from the ceiling and on every stretch of wall throughout the lobby. In fact, the walls the art hangs on is a building made by local companies and workers, putting money right back into the local economy. Even driving to and from the building, you can see the hospital has spruced up the whole block.

The theme of the building is things that fly and touches of theme are carried throughout. From the floors to the artwork, to the handles on the doors to inpatient rooms, each floor has a different icon and associated color to help families find their way around.

Inpatient Rooms

The inpatient rooms are state of the art. Regardless of the purpose, each room has TV’s that can pull up patient information and medical staff can send informational videos to that room. Patents can even order their meals and notify personnel if something needs to be addressed in the room. The hospital will employ two robots that use UV light to kill the last of the germs that may be left in a room after cleaning between patients. They really seem to be putting lots of patient feedback into the design of the room including many more single rooms.

For some of the rooms where kids will have longer stays will be single rooms, not only can kids watch TV and movies, they can bring their gaming systems from home to connect and play. The rooms have couches that pull out to sleepers for parents and have family refrigerators. They will also be offering room service so parents and caregivers don’t have to leave to the room.

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On the NICU floor, chairs pull out to sleepers and each baby gets a live feed for parents to log into and share with family. I didn’t realize that since babies can have extended stays some parents may opt to go back to work and save leave for when the baby comes home. What a great tool for parents to stay connected to what is going on with their little ones. Close to my breastfeeding heart is the Milk Lab where Mom can leave milk for baby.

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Some PICU rooms have adjoining rooms for instances where there may be multiple children from one family needing care at the same time. We also shown that the boom and other equipment have been integrated into the ceiling to free up floor space and take the weight of IV bags. They also showed us the tablets outside of each room that remind medical staff of what type of protective gear they should be wearing or other reminders for that patient.

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Caring for the Whole Family

On top of all the thought put into the equipment and function of the rooms, the hospital seems to have really put a lot of effort into making things as easy for families as possible. Plenty of lounge spaces, play room spaces, family bathrooms, a treadmill for families to utilize, separate TVs for parents to look at (there’s only so many times you can watch Frozen), and, most importantly, a staff that tries to make a difficult time as easy as possible.

See It For Yourself

Dayton Children’s Hospital is having a community open house on June 11, 2017, 1pm-4pm! Check out the Facebook event page for more information. Follow #AboveAndBeyond4Kids and visit me on Instagram for more photos and posts about the new patient tower.

TIPS:

  • Heading to Urgent Care in Miamisburg? When your child is sick, get in line from home by checking in at childrensdayton.org/saveyourspot.
  • Parking is free so why not stop in and grab lunch at the CulinAIRY café or pick up a gift from the gift shop.

 

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Some of Dayton Children’s Hospital Ambassadors were on hand to celebrate!

Blue Star Museums – Kicking off summer!

Memorial Day is upon us so that means it’s time for Blue Star Museums to kick off for the summer! What is Blue Star Museums?

Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and museums across America.  Each summer since 2010, Blue Star Museums have offered free admission to the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Every summer we are happy to get to explore some of the areas institutions a little more. In Florida we visited the Ringling Museum and MOSI. In Ohio we’ve visited Brukner Nature Center, Dayton Art Institute, Springfield Museum of Art, and Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm with this program. Follow this link to see which museums are participating in your state.

This program is for military and their family but all of these museums sound like great places to visit.

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Now that the girls are a little older, we’ll try exploring a little further this summer as time permits in addition to the Dayton area organizations, Dayton Art Institute (the Experiecenter theme is “performing arts” right now), Sunwatch Indian VillageAullwood Audubon Center and Farm, and Brukner Nature Center. Some of the stops on our summer bucket list this year include:

Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati

Ohio History Center, Columbus

Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wapakoneta

Take a minute to follow your favorites or get a calendar of events so you can plan a return visit during the year. If you are heading out for a summer trip, add one to your vacation itinerary. If you are new to taking children to museums, Blue Star Museums has some tips here.

 

Did you know that this is a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) program? The NEA is currently looking at funding being eliminated but arts advocates would like to see an increase in funding from its FY17 $148 million to $155 million. That sounds like a big number doesn’t it? However, it actually only makes up 0.004 percent of the federal budget. Did you know that the nonprofit arts industry supports 4.13 million jobs and contributes $729 billion, or 4.2% of the gross domestic product? That sounds like a pretty good return on investment.

In case you were wondering, if the increases to the NEA had grown in relation to inflation it would be over $300 million at this point. Given that 40% of its money goes out to the 50 states to be redistributed, imagine how many more afterschool arts programs, theatre camps, and writing workshops there could be in all congressional districts. NEA also funds Art Works, Our Town, Rig Read, and Creativity Connects programs.

If you would like to let your representatives know that you support funding for the arts that reaches all Americans, take a moment to let them know by clicking here and help #SavetheNEA.

 

I have not been paid by any organizations mentioned in this post I just enjoy them and want other people to enjoy them, too!

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Thanks, Moana

We are still pretty hard core Frozen fanatics over here, but Moana has been creeping into playtime more and more lately.

We had a trip to Florida planned to visit family and go to a wedding so I worked in a stop at my parents beach condo just outside of Fort Lauderdale. Every time we have been up until now it ends up being windy or rainy or too chilly or all of the above. If the weather is half way decent, my girls have way more interested in the pool than the sand.

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Thanks to Moana, however, the girls have been interested in the beach and the ocean so they were quite excited to hit the beach on this visit. Still, I wasn’t sure how long they’d last or if they’d be willing to give the ocean a try.

We ended up spending at least an hour playing in the sand, collecting and exploring shells, chasing birds, running from the waves, and enjoying time with my Mom and sister, Erin. Erin found a little friend we named “Tommy,” as in Tomatoa, the crab from Moana, since we thought it might be some sort of crab. Turns out it was a fighting conch.

The moment of truth finally came and the girls tentatively tiptoed into the ocean. My sister and I had been walking around in the water off and on trying to coax them out but, of course, they weren’t going to try it out until they were good and ready.

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Thankfully, the tide was out so we could walk out a bit and still only be mid calf high. The girls splashed around, sat in the water, and jumped over waves. While Kelsey was sitting down a wave went over her head – I froze up for a moment, nervous that it would end Kelsey’s time in the ocean but, thankfully, she laughed it off and went on having fun.

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We did eventually head up to the pool – after putting Tommy back in the water and dragging our sea shell finds up with us to go through. We ended up bring back a good sampling of shells and fossils that we looked up to identify so Kelsey could take them into school to share with the class. Poor Aubrey was wiped out and fell asleep on the floor for a while.

I thought I’d take a little “we’re in the ocean” selfie only to realize later that Kelsey decided to show off the bucket she was playing with and cover her sisters face in the process. I posted it anyways and ended up getting featured on Average Parent Problems on Instagram. With over 4,900 “likes” I guess a lot of parents have had this little problem.

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It was a great day at the beach. So, thanks, Moana, for finally convincing my girls that the ocean is awesome! And thanks to my Mom and sister for helping to make the day happen.

New Year’s Resolution: See More Art (Part 1)

I can’t keep a New Year’s Resolution to save my life. The only time in the past few years I did was one I decided to make something new each month. Although I failed to blog about the different projects, I actually did try a new craft or recipe each month. I ended the year with a bang by sewing my first pillowcase dress for Kelsey.

As New Year’s 2017 was approaching, I thought about what I should and could make my resolution. I’ve been trying to make a bigger effort to get more involved in the local arts community. It’s funny because my job is in the arts but between the nights and weekends that I’m out for work related events, my husbands schedule, the girls activities, and the cost of babysitters, I don’t get out to much else.

I decided that I would get out to something arts related at least once a month for 2017. So far it’s going well.

First up I made it out to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH to catch a performance in an art gallery by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company’s Associate Artistic Director and my x2 New York City roommate, Crystal Michelle. I have enjoyed getting to know her and her thought process from late night chats and watching her work. The art exhibition and performance were part of a series “Living in Divided States.” Crystal’s performance explored the black female body and both the imagined and real experiences of being in one.

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I won tickets to Pinkalicious the Musical at the Victoria Theater, Dayton, OH from Dayton Parent Magazine. The whole family made the trip into downtown to catch the show. The girls loved looking around the interior of the theater and watching the show while wearing pink.

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I had some time to kill before Dayton Contemporary Dance Company’s performance downtown the first weekend of March so I stopped it to check out Dayton Visual Arts Center for the first time. They have a new show every couple of months and have been a good support for local artists and is the home to an Art-o-mat, a converted cigarette vending machine that now sells small pieces of local art. I happened to pop in during the annual college exhibition. It was an interesting mix and representing a variety of disciplines.

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Dayton Contemporary Dance Company’s show, Vantage Points, was absolutely amazing. I’ve been waiting for this performance since it was announced at our staff meeting last January. I’ve watched pieces of it come together in the studio all year and it did not disappoint. Wawa Aba by Stafford Berry, Rainbow Round My Shoulder by Donald McKayle (which DCDC won a 2016 Bessie Award for), and a new work, This I Know For Sure, by Ray Mercer. It was a program of outstanding, emotional, and riveting works. Ray’s piece being new was the one I was anticipating the most – pretty much a tie with getting to see the famous Rainbow Round My Shoulder live.

This I Know For Sure was just a stand out. Dancers fly through the air, climb all over each in new ways, continually introducing new groupings and partnering between a variety of dancers. Two favorite moments for me were the ladies trio (a statement of the strength and beauty of women) and a portion of the men’s piece were one female dancer seems to entice each of them, standing and expecting to be carried by each of them in turn while giving up nothing of herself. It was a wonderful experience to hear the audience explode with applause after oohing and awing through the piece.

 

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Photo by Scott Robbins, Geek with a Lens

Next up, I’ll be heading down to Cincinnati March 18 to watch Cincinnati Ballet’s Bold Moves. An evening of two contemporary dance pieces. They seem to be having a stellar year with Coppelia and Camelot ballets earlier this season – if you don’t yet, you should follow them on Instagram and Facebook for behind the scenes photos and fun videos like this one from Camelot when they took the puppet horse out for a stroll.

The first piece is going to be Minus 16 by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, creator of the Gaga method of dance which explores new ways to use the body (no relation to Lady). A quick search of Minus 16 on YouTube will give you a sampling of this work with seems to have become a modern day contemporary dance classic. The second work is a world premier by Cincinnati Ballet Resident Choreographer Adam Hougland. His brand new work is set to Beethoven’s String Quartet “Op. 18, No. 1 in F Major”, performed live on stage by the award-winning Israeli ensemble, Ariel Quartet.

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Photo by Aaron M Conway

 

Unfortunately, I’ll be heading to Washington DC for National Arts Advocacy Day (check it out at #ArtsAdvocacy) so I won’t be able to take the girls to their second company’s Ballet Toybox performance of Swan Lake, Jr on March 19. It’s an hour long performance for children 10 and younger. Check it out if you’re nearby.

This is just Part 1 of this series so I’ll update you in a few months on my next few art adventures. If you would like to take a moment to show your support of the arts, sign Americans for the Arts Action Fund’s petition for support of the arts.

2016 Year in Review

Taking a moment to reflect on the past year. 2016 was a pretty eventful year for the VanHuss family. A lot of opportunities and new experiences but they sometimes brought challenges and more questions than we had answers for. We had a lot of fun, too, and my husband and I started #hussofhouse4 on Instagram to have a shared place for our snapshots to live. We even had our Frozen family Halloween costume included in Mommy Short’s “best of” list!

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The most significant change for our family this year was buying our first home. A little piece of the American dream. We moved in the month of July and the girls have had a blast here. We have plenty of space for everyone to spread out inside and lots of space for the girls to play outside. Summer evening walks to the ice cream shop have already become a habit and we’ve been enjoying the fireplace this winter. We are looking forward to taking full advantage of the garden beds in the backyard and the cherry tree in the spring, hoping it’s as “fruitful” as the blackberry bushes were this summer.

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Kelsey has had an exciting year. This summer she made her stage debut as a Munchkin in La Comedia Dinner Theatre’s The Wizard of Oz. She had a great time participating in it, even if she was not the most diligent actress. I think it was a good experience for her to get her feet wet in an experience where she needed to be independent of mom and dad and it was a learning experience for mom and dad, too, going from being on the stage to being responsible for getting a child to the stage. The cast became a second family for her this summer and I definitely was heart eyes watching her out there (even if she was waving at me from the stage).

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She also started Kindergarten this year and became a Daisy Girl Scout. I’ve been looking forward to this year since we found out she was going to be a girl. I’ve been lucky enough to start a troop for her with 2 other parents sharing the leader position and responsibilities. We have 16 girls in the troop (18 if you count the 2 unofficial “tagalongs”!).

Not to be completely out done, Aubrey potty trained this year. That’s huge when you no longer have to buy diapers and can sell your full stash of cloth diapers (which also means no more washing cloth diapers!).

My husband got promoted this year. In the middle of trying to get settled in the new house and Kelsey’s Munchkin commitment, we got to celebrate his career accomplishments with his parents. The girls got to tack his stripe on at the ceremony.

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As for me, it’s been a busy year traveling between my new position at work, being selected for a leadership mentoring program, and being a cancan dancer. I spent a few days in New York City, Milwaukee, and Orlando each at different performing arts booking conferences representing Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. As part of Dance/USA Institute for Leadership Training a attended the annual conference in Austin and then did a site visit to DANCECleveland. I spent another couple of days at the Cleveland Oktoberfest with Madame Gigi’s Outrageous French Cancan Dancers along with a handful of performances around the Miami Valley. (TL: The Bronze Fonz in MLK, TR: my companion at conferences, BR: Breakfast Tacos in Austin, BL: cancan at A World A’fair)

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As a family we’ve done a bit of travel, too. We combined one of my trips to Cleveland and Orlando into family getaways. My family met us in Orlando and my parents, sister, and brother-in-law planned out an exciting day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for us. We closed out 2016 with a short trip to Columbus. (TL: Cleveland rocks, TR: WDW Animal Kingdom, BR: COSI Science Museum in Columbus, BL: a little R&R in Orlando)

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We’ve been to local attractions like Dayton Art Institute and Newport Aquarium a few times, picked strawberries, blueberries, and apples, went to a handful of local festivals, have tried to make Sundays family game night, been on countless walks and hikes, tried a bunch of new restaurants, saw a couple of movies at the theater, went out to a few light displays for the holidays, volunteered…no wonder the year has flown by!

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Here’s hoping 2017 is kind to our family but we’ll have to wait and see. I know we’ll be tossing our water, eating our sauerkraut and black eyed peas, and munching our 12 grapes for all the luck we can get in the coming year.

Happy New Year!

Goldfish Swim School Grand Opening in Dayton!

Goldfish Swim School has announced the grand opening of a new 8,600 square foot Dayton, OH location. The newest addition to the Goldfish Swim School family joins three other thriving Ohio locations and dozens of other successful Goldfish locations throughout the United States.

In a few weeks, our girls will be starting swim lessons in a warm 90-degree pool with a state-of-the-art water purification system. I like that they have small class sizes (max 4:1 student to teacher ratio) and that even with each girl at different ages and skill levels I was able to get both a 5 year old and a 2 year old in the pool during the same half hour time slot. 

Goldfish Swim School provides swim instruction to children ages 4 months to 12 years-old. In addition to swim lessons, Goldfish Swim School of Dayton offers weekly family swims (for both members and non-members) and party packages. Their facility highlights include an air conditioned viewing gallery for parents to watch lessons, a spacious family dressing area with private changing rooms, snack bar, retail shop and warm, tropical décor.

Located at 671 Lyons Road, Goldfish Swim School of Dayton offers a wide range of swimming classes for all ages and skill levels at times that are convenient for every family’s schedule. Families can register for lessons now by visiting the website or calling (937) 972-0177.

All are welcome at a FREE Grand Opening Party on Sunday, March 20, 2016 from 1:00-4:00 p.m. Event highlights include free family swim, facility tours, face painting, a balloon artist, raffles, games, crafts, complimentary snacks and more. Visit their events calendar for more details and connect with their Facebook Page to learn more about what’s happening at the new facility!

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About Goldfish Swim School

Established in 2006 by husband and wife team, Jenny and Chris McCuiston, Goldfish Swim School provides swim lessons and water safety instruction to infants and children ages four months to 12 years. Classes are offered by specially trained instructors in a safe, kid-friendly and fun environment. Goldfish currently teaches more than 31,000 students per week to swim and be safer in and around the water. Headquartered in Birmingham, Michigan, Goldfish Swim School opened its first franchise in 2009 in Farmington Hills, Michigan and is in the process of expanding franchise opportunities throughout the country. Currently there over 30 schools open or in development in more than 10 states. For more information, visit www.goldfishswimschool.com.

 

*Sponsored post. All opinions are my own.