By Shannon Wise, Nature Preschool Manager
At Nature Preschool, support the connection among parents, teachers, and the Schuylkill Center as a whole. Preschool is often an early opportunity for parents to make connections with other families over shared values and interests. It is our goal to strengthen and foster these relationships through families’ time at the Schuylkill Center. In our first year running the Nature Preschool program, we hosted a day of service on Dr. Martin Luther King Day. Last year, we invited past preschool families to the Center for a reunion in the spring. Both events were great experiences but as we began reflecting on family’s availability and the idea of connections and service, we were struck by the idea of combining these two events. Hence this year’s day of service reunion. I am always inspired by the gathering of parents, children, and teachers for events rooted in their school experience. It strengthens the personal connections and also the identification with the Schuylkill Center as a home away from home. This year, we planned for Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service and immediately I received a great amount of feedback from parents explaining, “I am so excited to engage my child in relevant service activities to their lives that support their ability to help out”. In addition, it seemed as though the idea of hosting this event on a school holiday allowed previous families the flexibility to come back to the Center with their children.
With the support of the teachers and Schuylkill Center Staff, we planned four different activity choices along the trails and in the classroom. The children enjoyed restoring blue bird houses, re-filling bird feeders at the Bird Blind, picking up liter, and creating chew toys for the animals at our wildlife clinic. These are meaningful experiences that allow the children and families to be affirmed in their connection with our community. It also connects them to our larger global community by taking small steps to help and support the immediate environment.
After the energy and work on the trails, we ended the morning with a animal show highlighting two birds from our clinic: our crow, Russel, and our saw-whet owl. The auditorium seats were filled as the children listened and watched intently to find out more about these interesting animals. The awe expressed on the children’s faces shows how these experiences help to build the love of the outdoors and connection to animals.
The morning was truly a heart-felt event with smiles and an eagerness to collaborate here at the Schuylkill Center. Children teaching and engaging with one another is a great learning experience. With kindergarteners and first graders returning, they were able to experience the freedom of the outdoors. Their strength and leadership was a model for the younger children who are experiencing for the first time how to recognize their abilities in engaging outdoor. Families talked with one another and children hugged their old friends to reminisce about good times and past experiences all while creating new memories together on this special day. I continue to be motivated to foster that feeling in a variety of ways and I thank all of you for that.