A few months ago, I realized that my family and I love our favorite nature spaces so much that we had not explored new places. Once the realization hit me, I set out to find more places that my family could enjoy together. One of the best advantages to living in Maryland is that there are many natural resources that are family friendly. One gem is located in Montgomery County: Brookside Nature Center, which is very close to Brookside Gardens which I mentioned in one of my recent posts: “10 Places to Enjoy Nature Near Silver Spring, MD.”
A Brief History of Brookside Nature Center
Brookside Nature Center is Montgomery County’s first Regional Park and it opened in 1961. The land area is about 536 acres and located in Wheaton, MD. Visitors can enjoy permanent exhibits, scheduled classes, nature trails, and the Thomas Harper Homestead.
Furthermore, you can read more about the history of the park even before the area became a part of Montgomery County, from information distributed by the Montgomery County Historical Society. In fact, the Society traced the area back over 282 years ago and the records shared are fascinating.
What Did We Enjoy ?
My kids enjoyed their visit by playing outdoors. Thus, I believe kids should have ample time to explore outdoors, listen to nature, and go on adventures. The Brookside Nature Center is perfect place to do all three.
The Thomas Harper Homestead
In addition, Thomas Harper originally built the home in 1870 for his wife and six children. The homestead area includes a modest home, smokehouse, and outhouse. However, the smokehouse was not built by Thomas Harper, it actually comes from the Leonard Kapiloff property, but is an actual 1850s Smokehouse used during that time period (source). Brookside nature center is not the original location, the home’s first site was north of Poolsville, MD.
Thus, my kids and I were in awe that Mr Harper’s 15 grandchildren once shared the space upstairs in the tiny home. This visit was perfect timing for me, because I’m interested in learning more about black families following the Emancipation Proclamation. Mainly because the Emancipation Proclamation was passed by former President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862, three years before the Civil War officially ended on May 13, 1865.
Surprisingly, the Harpers were a part of a free community called Jonesville. The black residents in Jonesville owned their own homes and land which was unusual at the time for newly freed slaves. So, I’m curious and plan to find out more information out about the families living in Jonesville.
Teaching Kids About the Past
Although learning about slavery in America can be disheartening, if you only focus on the pain, oppression, and systematic disadvantages, the history can uplift as well. For example, learning about families such as the Harpers, can help younger generations understand more about how overcoming adversity can strengthen communities and help provide understanding and appreciation for many of the freedoms we enjoy today.
Schedule A Visit to Brookside Nature Center in Wheaton, MD
Brookside Nature Center 1400 Glenallan Avenue in Wheaton, Maryland
- Tuesday through Saturday
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Mondays and major holidays
Click here for their current calendar of events.
Additional Resources to read:
In the comment section, please name some hidden educational gems that people may not know about and tell us why it is important to you?
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