Passionate About the Community
and the Moms Who Live Here

ECHO Leahy Center Featuring the New CHAMP LANE!

{Disclaimer: We are working with ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain to bring you this information. However, all opinions are our own.}

EchoI come in contact with a lot of moms through BurlingtonVT Moms Blog events, music and story times, playgroups, other community events and online moms groups. One of the things that I have heard from others ever since becoming a mom is people’s general disappointment that our community lacks indoor play spaces for young children. I’ve heard conversations of moms wanting to create co-ops to create these spaces. When Caroline was younger, I took this feedback at face value and assumed there wasn’t much out there. It wasn’t until she was almost a year old, that I realized I was wrong, and was my husband of all people to show me the light!

In December 2014, when Caroline was 9 months old, my husband, Jason, Caroline and I had been shut up in the house for days. Jason had had enough and decided we had to do something and so suggested that we go to ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. I was hesitant, telling him she was too young and it would be a waste of money. But he insisted and said at the very least she could look at the fish.

When we got to ECHO this is what we found:

  • For $70 we could get a year-long dual membership (Children 2 and under are free) instead of paying $27 for one day (for a family of 4 it’s $110). With the membership, we automatically became part of the ASTC Passport Program, which allows us free admission to 325+ museums and science centers throughout the country (this includes the Boston Children’s Museum and the Museum of Science in Boston). We have taken advantage of this perk 3 times already.
  • With a membership, you also receive a 10% discount at ECHO’s Café and Gift Shop, discounted member parking rates during the peak season, $2 discount for all guests in your party, and early registration and discounts for ECHO programs, camps, and overnights.
  • There were several tanks containing fish, frogs, turtles, and other small lake reptiles and amphibians that Caroline loved watching. We all enjoyed viewing some of the animals being fed by ECHO staff (they do this at scheduled times every day.)  There is also a tank where you can touch small sea creatures like starfish and crabs.

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  • The Resource Room. I highly recommend this room for anyone with younger children. Caroline loved, and still does, the discovery drawers they have with different tactile items and things to look at. As she has gotten older she has enjoyed the books, puzzles and other activities in the room. The room is always staffed with some of the friendliest people.
Caroline in the Resource Room February 2015

Caroline in the Resource Room February 2015

  • A pre-school room that had a small boat, reading area, play food, white board with magnets, small slide and other age appropriate activities. This space is no longer there as it was made larger and has been turned into Champ Lane. But when Caroline was a year old, it was perfect for her.
  • They have a space on the first floor for a exhibit that they change out every few months. This is great because it keeps things fresh, and new areas to explore.
  • The bathrooms are super family-friendly, with the upstairs one actually having a children’s toilet in it and all of them having very large changing tables.
  • Sugarsnap provides all of the food for ECHO’s Cafe. Sugarsnap features locally grown and produced food, straight from the Burlington Intervale Community Farm.
Caroline and Friends, April 22, 2015

Caroline and Friends, April 22, 2015

There are even more activities and spaces that ECHO offers, but honestly we haven’t had a chance to really explore them, as Caroline has her favorites that we always go back to and some are for older children. My family has found that ECHO is a place that Caroline can grow into. After that initial visit roughly 16 months ago, we started going at least once every week.

We have also had the opportunity not only to experience ECHO but also to become part of the Early Learning Readiness (ELR) program, a partnership between ECHO and the YMCA. The ELR program seeks to get children school ready and offers special programming at ECHO two mornings a week. We have LOVED this program, and literally stumbled on it one morning when we arrived at ECHO a little early a year ago and I was asked if I was there for the program. The YMCA has a staff member that runs the program but ECHO staff are also present, Sugarsnap provides the snack, and on Thursdays (our favorite) Elizabeth from ECHO does a science activity during the first circle time.

Champ Lane

Anyone who has been in  this space knows that Champ Lane has been a game changer. Many of the moms I mentioned at the beginning of this post feel like we FINALLY have a play space for our children!

16Echo_ChampLane_Logo_PrimarySo what is Champ Lane?

Champ Lane was built on the concept that play is learning with early learners and was created especially for ages 0-6. ECHO partnered with Let’s Grow Kids and their education team developed the CLIPS standards for Champ Lane. CLIPS stands for Communication, Logical Thinking, Inquiry, Persistence, and Science Identity. In the space you will find: a treehouse, a bridge, a slide, a café, a market, a home and puppet theater, boats, a space for non-walkers, a huge water table, an animal care/lab and a book nook.

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Photo provided by ECHO

Basically, it’s an amazing play space that fosters learning through play. As a mom, I appreciate in each area there is a sign outlining what types of skills Caroline is gaining by engaging in that specific activity.

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Photo provided by ECHO

A great mama tip about this space is that since it’s so popular, ECHO offers their members access to the area at 9am every Saturday, an hour before ECHO opens to the public!

ECHO6ECHO Camps

All of ECHO’s camps are science-based and maker/engineering camps that also offer access to Lake Champlain with plenty of outside time. New this summer, ECHO is offering 2 kindergarten camps. ECHO offers a selection of exciting week-long science, stewardship, and design themed day camps for children entering K-6th grade from late-June through late-August. This summer’s themes range from Pinball Wizards to Marine Biology.

ECHO Open Door

ECHO’s Open Door program allows ECHO to be more accessible to the community. ECHO is a non-profit and strives to break down financial and cultural barriers by working to find affordable and equitable ways to allow all members of our community to have access to ECHO’s rich services and resources. During ECHO’s You Give We Give membership matching program they work with social service agencies in VT and upstate NY to donate memberships and $2 day passes to those in need. The Open Door program also includes their ELR program, the Library day pass program, and working with the Mobius Mentoring program.

My family loves ECHO and I recommend that if you haven’t visited to experience everything they have to offer, you do so NOW! They have something for all ages, truly, from crawlers all the way to adults. 

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