December 18, 2014

Spotlight on the Residential Counselors – Part 2

Posted in Employees, Residential, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services tagged , , , , , , at 1:54 pm by Lund

One afternoon last week the dining room at Lund’s Glen Road Residential Treatment Center was alive with activity as residential counselors and residents were making paper snowflakes together to celebrate the season and make their rooms and common spaces look festive.  The counselor leading the activity was in and out of the room looking for more scissors and tape to make sure everyone had what they needed.  The residents were quick to ask whether they could take their creations away to hang where they wanted.  Everyone was engaged in completing the activity until it was time for transports to leave to bring the moms to childcare to pick up their children and transition everyone into dinner time and evening activities.  Upstairs in one of the counselor’s offices, two counselors were chatting with a resident who had her baby in the office with her lying in a bassinet happily listening to the goings on and gumming on a teething toy.  Further down the hall another counselor, with a toddler balanced on her hip, was discussing a problem with the washing machine in one of the pods with another resident.  This normal afternoon scene demonstrates the diversity of the requirements of the counselor’s jobs.  There is always something that needs to be done and it could be arts and crafts, parenting support, driving, companionship or even washing machine repair.  This team stays on their toes and does what needs to be done to support the moms and children living at the facility, whatever that might be.

When asked what their favorite part of their job was, celebrating holidays came to forefront for many of the counselors.  “I loved spending time with the few residents who were here over Thanksgiving,” said Audrey Rose. “It felt so special to spend the family day with them and relax with the clients who were present.”  Lauren Ozzella, Residential Shift Supervisor, seconded this appreciation for spending holidays with the clients, “One of my favorite memories is working at Lund on Mother’s Day. Since it can be a bittersweet day for some of our clients we do lots of fun things to make them feel special and appreciated. Last Mother’s Day was great; clients and staff alike had a great time! One of the mom’s actually wished me a Happy Mother’s Day as well. She explained that she believes that counselors are sort of like mothers to them and their children, too, and that she thinks that we also deserve to be appreciated on Mother’s Day. That was so unexpected and touching; it’s something that I will always remember.”

Keep reading to meet some more of Lund’s wonderful residential counselors.

Thomas  Natasha is extremely dedicated to that work that she does as a counselor.  She is a great support to our clients and to her team members alike and is always finding ways to make everyone laugh.

 

 

 

 

Ozzella Lauren  is a fantastic and strong leader on the team.  She is understanding, empathic, positive and motivating. Lauren takes charge and is confident in her abilities. She promotes team morale and cohesiveness.

 

 

 

Manchester J  Jessica is a great asset to the evening and weekend team.  She is straightforward, consistent and reliable.  Jessica is positive, happy and a great person to be around.

 

 

 

 

 

Daugreilh  Ashley  ensures that all runs smoothly on her shift and she is a strong advocate for her staff. Ashley balances compassion with boundary setting and limits with our clients.   She has a witty sense of humor that keeps us all in good spirits!

 

 

 

 

 

Campbell  Sarah has worked for several years as a counselor in the residential program and at IP. Currently Sarah works part-time as a daytime counselor while she completes her BSW/MSW program. Sarah has a huge heart, which is evident through the work that she does with our clients and their children.

 

 

 

 

 

Michaud  Katy makes anyone around her smile! She is positive, calm and has a can do attitude about everything. Nothing rattles Katy she is able to handle most anything that is thrown at her during her shift.

 

 

 

Mumford After working as an overnight counselor and then as a full-time evening counselor, Anna has recently transitioned into a part-time shift while she completes her MSW program. She is fun and creative and is always the first to volunteer to play with the toddlers in the play lab during dinner chores.

 

 

RiversMichaela is part of our weekend evening and overnight team. She is a great team player and always takes the initiative to get things done with a smile on her face. Michaela is kind and compassionate; she is a great support to our clients and does not shy away from challenges.

 

 

Rose Audrey has been working at Lund for two and a half years. She is well known in the counseling department for planning and facilitating our weekend trips and activities. She is kind, caring, patient and is very dedicated to her work.

 

 

JoyceDanielle always goes the extra mile and can be counted on to get things done. Danielle is thorough in everything she does and we never have to worry that something won’t get completed. Danielle is also very very funny. She has a great sense of humor which is appreciated in her work with staff and clients.

 

 

Screen shot 2014-12-16 at 2.09.46 PM  Heidi is the newest member of the counseling team, working weekend mornings. Heidi has great knowledge and skills and jumped into her new position with two feet. Heidi has very quickly become comfortable in her position and is already working with our clients with confidence.

December 16, 2014

Spotlight on the Residential Counselors – Part 1

Posted in Employees, Residential, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services tagged , , , at 2:06 pm by Lund

Lund’s residential treatment program is the only place in Vermont where women can receive treatment for substance abuse or mental health issues while living with their children.  26 women pregnant or parenting women can live with one or two children up to age 5 at Lund’s Glen Road facility.  The program is staffed 24 hours a day to support these women and their families as they manage their own recovery, learn parenting and life skills and work towards self sufficiency.  The residential counselors who work daytime, evening, overnight and weekend shifts are an absolutely essential part of the program and provide all manner of support to the women and children from providing respite during the night, giving parenting support, planning family activities, doing chores, driving to appointments and helping moms deal with all the challenges that arise from parenting or pregnancy.    The counselors have been called the ‘glue that holds the program together.’

Last Friday the counselors held their holiday party sharing treats and exchanging ‘Secret Snowflake’ gifts.  It was unusual for so many of them to be in the same place at the same time as their shifts are often opposite and rarely can everyone be in a room at the same time as someone is usually needed on the residential floors or to accompany clients to appointments.   It was fun to see everyone celebrating and sharing the season together.  By necessity the  counselors work closely together and you can see it in the way they interact with each other.  It is clear that this is a passionate, dedicated and hard working team which of course is hugely beneficial to the families they work with.

Please read on for  ‘Meet the Counselors: Part 1′ and learn more about their work helping children and families to thrive.

JacksonJamie works the morning shift.  She is eager to be involved with resident’s treatment and is gracious in holding limits with them . Jamie is particularly enthusiastic for Saturday morning activities with clients.

 

 

Wood AAbi is hailed as having a perpetually positive attitude and has been commended for her calm and soothing presence during the morning rush.

 

 

 

 

PageKatelynn is a big fan of arts and crafts and she really enjoys engaging clients in art projects to make their time at Lund feel special. Katelynn in quietly determined with clients and supports consistently through challenging times.

 

 

 

ConroyKelsey is a fantastic team player and has worked all different shifts with consistency and reliability.  She is now working as a sub while she is in grad school. Kelsey presents herself with such a calm demeanor and radiates positivity throughout residents and staff member.

 

 

WhiteAlyse is happiest when playing with her toddler friends and always brings humor to any situation. Alyse is flexible and is able to handle any situation with ease that is thrown her way.

 

 

 

DeweyLaura is always helping out clients either one on one or in a group setting. Laura brings strength in play therapy to the evening team which is evident in her work with our kiddos! Laura is extremely patient and kind and is always willing to go the extra mile for any client.

 

 

 

 

WestBridgette’s passion for this job is evident in all the work she does. Team members describe Bridgette as committed and passionate and always able to make them laugh.

 

 

 

MbayuTeam members believe Francine has a solid “mom” presence for the women here and is always willing to lend a hand. Francine is appreciated for her hard work and her continual smile.

 

 

 

 

LeachDianne is always on the go doing something for other people. Dianne is always able to give great feedback to clients and really grow a bond with them.

 

 

 

Brot Liz is a team player and is often seen at L&D in her favorite spot overlooking Burlington. Liz brings strength in child development to the evening team and is able to help moms in any tricky situation. Liz often has a “can do” attitude that becomes contagious to other staff.

December 8, 2014

Jeff Small Pioneer Award 2014

Posted in Awards, Employees, Events tagged , , , , , , at 8:29 am by Lund

Kristi Provost, Billing Support Specialist, was awarded the Jeff Small Pioneer Award at the All Staff Retreat last month.   The Jeff Small Pioneer Award is given to a Lund employee who shows focus on the mission of Lund, courageousness in doing what needs to be done, confidence in working to secure a brighter future for Lund and its clients and persistence in not giving up on a project even if the going is slow.  These were all qualities shown by former Lund board president Jeff Small, in whose honor the award is named.

Kristi has worked at Lund for almost 5 years.  First as an administrative assistant and receptionist in the front office at Glen Road, and now as the first employee in this newly created position where she is responsible for quality assurance of client records and billing across multiple programs as well as data collection and reporting.  In her new position, Kristi has also been helping to prepare Lund for the implementation of our new electronic data base and has helped streamline processes for obtaining information to adhere to our many reporting requirements.  “This was a role that was very much needed to support the growth of our programs, but did not yet have a lot of structure built into it,” said Courtney Farrell, Associate Director of Residential and Community Treatment.  “Kristi took what she already knew and identified what she needed to learn to meet the demands of the new position, often taking responsibility for her own learning and focusing on what she needed to do this job to the best of her ability. Kristi quickly learned so much about what each of our programs required and set up systems to manage an incredible amount of data in a way that decreased the burden for staff, and provided the management team new program information that we had never had before. Kristi often knows what is needed by each individual to do our jobs well (sometimes when we don’t even know!) and takes responsibility to provide us each with what we need.”

Executive Director Barbara Rachelson, Courtney, Kristi and Kim Coe, Director of Residential and Treatment Services

Executive Director Barbara Rachelson, Courtney, Kristi and Kim Coe, Director of Residential and Treatment Services

Kristi was surprised but pleased at being given this award, “It was a very unexpected surprise, but I was so moved by the recognition I received from the agency.  Working in the background, so to speak, you become accustomed to applauding the hard work that is being done for families on the front-line.  It is a very pleasant moment when it is brought to your attention that the work you do as an administrator to support all of the direct service providers really is making a difference in the way they are able to help support the children and families that we serve.”

In her free time Kristi enjoys spending time with her family hiking, baking, drawing and reading.

December 4, 2014

Elizabeth Lund Employee of the Year 2014

Posted in Adoption, Awards, Employees, Events, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:34 am by Lund

Melissa Appleton, Post Permancy Worker in Lund’s adoption department, was awarded the Elizabeth Lund Employee of the Year Award at the all staff retreat last month.  Melissa provides specialized support services for families after they have finalized their adoptions or guardianships.  Her focus is to help families manage the joys and challenges of adoption and guardianship and grow stronger by offering support, education and information.  Having worked for 8 years at Lund, Melissa felt honored and grateful to receive the Elizabeth Lund Employee of the Year Award, “I know how special the Elizabeth Lund award is. Lund is a great place to work with committed and skilled staff. I am grateful to receive this award-especially knowing that I work with other Lund staff who are equally deserving.  Knowing these peers nominated me is very special. I could not do this job without the support and encouragement of an amazing team and co-workers. I am also grateful to the Lund families who have taught me about being a social worker and have helped shape my work here at Lund.”

Executive Director, Barbara Rachelson with Melissa, Christina and Director of Adoption, Wanda Audette at the 2014 All Staff Retreat at Hotel Vermont.

Executive Director, Barbara Rachelson with Melissa, Christina and Director of Adoption, Wanda Audette at the 2014 All Staff Retreat at Hotel Vermont.

Christina Shuma, Post Permanency Services Coordinator, presented Melissa with the award referring to her as a “very special and extremely skilled social worker.”  She also remarked on her admirable commitment to professional development and her role as a go to person for post permanency issues not just at Lund but at other organizations she works with.  Everything Melissa does is driven by her commitment to the families, “At the core of her work with families she believes that families want the absolute best for their children and are doing the best they can with what they already know. She sees it as her mission to help these families, who are parenting children not born to them, learn as much as they can about this unique role that they have with their children, how they can parent their children at the child’s developmental level, how parents can learn more about their own parenting style, stress and coping skills; and to ensure that the community of providers involved with the families are sensitive to the adoption or guardianship needs of the child and family,” said Christina.

Doing work that can be frustrating and sometimes difficult, Melissa takes time to focus on the positives, “One of my favorite parts of being a Post Permanence Service Provider is being able to sit with an adoptive or guardianship family and celebrate the successes. These may not be considered huge successes in general terms: it may be a month at school free of write-ups for behavior or a parent finally getting nightly hugs from their child. To many these may not seem that substantial but to some of our Post Permanence families these small successes are so important. These children and families have not always traveled the easiest road and being able to recognize these celebrations reminds me how important this work is.”

In her free time Melissa enjoys getting outside as much as possible – skiing, mountain biking, swimming, horseback riding.  Activities which she uses to refuel herself to face the considerable demands of her job.  Thank you, Melissa, for your dedication and hard work for families who need you.  We are all very lucky to have you at Lund.  Congratulations on this well deserved award.

 

November 25, 2014

What is “Giving Tuesday”?

Posted in Commentary, Donor Spotlight, Foster Care Program tagged , , at 11:46 am by Lund

We know that this Thursday is a day for giving thanks and being grateful for all wonderful people and situations we have in our lives.  Advertising makes sure that we know that the following day is a day for getting deals on our holiday shopping and increasingly we are encouraged to consider the following Monday as a day for getting those same deals online.  But there is also a growing movement to recognize the next day as Giving Tuesday, a day for celebrating generosity and giving back. Started in 2012 by the 92nd St Y and the United Nations Foundation as response to the consumerism and commercialism in the days immediately following Thanksgiving, the idea has gained traction nationwide and is now supported by millions of people around the world and many large commercial enterprises such as Ebay, Discover and Google.

In 2012, $10 million was donated online with an average donation of $101 on Giving Tuesday. In 2013, $19million was donated with an average donation of $142.  Let’s review that again – $29 million over two days of giving!  Giving Tuesday is powerful and shows that people want to give back and want to celebrate and participate in philanthropy in the U.S.  What a fitting conclusion to Thanksgiving.

In 2013, over 7000 nonprofits actively participated in Giving Tuesday and encouraged their friends and donors to make gifts to their cause.  This year it is expected that over 10,000 organizations will officially register with Giving Tuesday and conduct campaigns encouraging people to support them.  Lund will be participating in Giving Tuesday this year and invite all of our supporters to participate in the work that we do to help families break cycles of poverty, addiction and abuse by making a donation to Lund on Tuesday, December 2.  It easy and completely secure to make a donation on our website at www.give.lundvt.org.

If you would to, you can then share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter that you supported Lund and supported Giving Tuesday by using the #GivingTuesday tag.

During this season of thanksgiving, we are so grateful to our friends in the community who support women, children and families at Lund through financial contributions, volunteer hours, gifts of essential items for our families and by being advocates for our organization and the work we do.  Thank you.

To learn more about Giving Tuesday, click on  this video:

Giving Tuesday

 

 

November 20, 2014

“Love Builds a Family” -

Posted in Adoption, DCF, Events, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , at 2:36 pm by Lund

“He’s finally my brother!” Said one little girl as the adoption of her brother was finalized this morning at the Chittenden County Probate Court in Burlington.  This finalization was one of 12 happening in Burlington which, when combined with 10 in St. Albans and seven in Woodstock, makes a record breaking 29 adoption finalizations in one day.  29 new families were created today through the work of  Lund’s partnership with the Department of Children and Families – Project Family and Lund’s adoption program.

There were balloons, stuffed animals, flowers and cookies for every adopted child and the waiting area outside the court room was packed with an ever rotating crew of friends, relatives, Lund employees and DCF employees as adoption finalizations happened every 15 minutes.  In the courtroom, the prodigious Judge Susan Fowler presided over the adoptions and made every one a party with music, balloons and letting the children bang the gavel.  “I’ll let you off making the speech we were expecting from you,” she said to one 19 month old. “Let’s make this official.”  She handed him the gavel and waited patiently while he put it in his mouth before encouraging him to bang it on the table.  “Give me my baby brother,” an older sister cried the minute the gavel hit the table, scooping her new little brother off his mom’s lap and lifting him high into the air.

Helium balloons wait for every child adopted today. Celebrate!

Helium balloons wait for every child adopted today. Celebrate!

The children adopted this morning were aged between 6 months and twelve years.  There was a little girl who was celebrating her birthday on the same day as her adoption, a little boy flanked by the proudest grandparents in a 100 mile radius, “He’s such a joy, such a blessing,” his grandmother said to me, another boy so excited he couldn’t stop jumping up and down and a family who were adopting their seventh child after fostering more than 100 children.  Everywhere you looked were smiles, happy tears, and hugs.  Even the security guard was getting into the swing of things clapping as the families came out of the courtroom and handing out chocolate.  ‘It’s going to be boring here tomorrow,” he said regretfully.

The scene will be repeated this afternoon at the courthouse in St. Albans and at different times of the day in Woodstock.   “Love builds a family,” said one Dad. “Adoption is that love.”

Watch news coverage of the days events from Fox 44 here

November 18, 2014

Lund Celebrates National Adoption Month

Posted in Adoption, DCF, Events, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , , , , , , , at 12:04 pm by Lund

Every November, a Presidential Proclamation launches activities and celebrations to help build awareness of adoption throughout the nation. Thousands of community organizations arrange and host programs, events, and activities to share positive adoption stories, challenge the myths, and draw attention to the thousands of children in foster care who are waiting for permanent families.  At this time, there are 68 children in Vermont who need forever families and permanent homes.   Lund’s partnership with the Department of Children and Families, Project Family, is working hard to find homes for these children.  Last year Project Family found homes for 169 children who had been living in foster care or in residential treatment environments.

To celebrate National Adoption Month, Lund in partnership with  the Department of Children and Families  will finalize 29 adoptions this coming Thursday, November 20th, at three court houses across the state.  This is a record for Lund and the Department of Children and Families and a record for Vermont.  29 children will go to bed on Thursday night knowing that they never again have to wonder where they belong or who will look out for them when they need help.

Also in celebration of National Adoption Month, we are sharing some micro interviews with our adoption staff.  Get to know these fabulous people and their work to make sure that every child has a home, below:  (Click on the picture to view it larger)

julia#human

 

 

donna#humanKarisa#human

 

kate#human

christina#human

 

November 6, 2014

Let’s Grow Kids – The Raising of America

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:41 am by Lund

Let’s Grow Kids, a statewide advocacy organization promoting the importance of quality early childhood education, held 16  events around the state last month to promote an upcoming PBS documentary series, “The Raising of America.”  Each of the events featured a presentation from a local pediatrician about brain development during the early years and a 30 minute sneak peek of the documentary followed by a panel of local speakers taking questions from the audience on all aspects of early childhood education.

Raising of America

Click on this picture to watch the trailer for “The Raising of America”

The series, which will be shown in Spring 2015, focuses on why children in the United States have worse outcomes on most measures of health, education and well-being than other rich nations and what can be done to stop the most vulnerable children falling further and further behind.  Following the stories of various families as they struggle to find and afford quality child care for their children and delving into the brain science that proves the need for such, the series promises a well rounded and in depth exploration of what is widely being called a “crisis” by experts in the field.  The situation is presented as a logical one.  In order to ensure a vibrant and successful future for our nation, we must invest in the children who will be the citizens of that nation.  The project description on  raisingofamerica.org states, “It doesn’t have to be this way. When we invest in strengthening communities, families and young children today, the next generation will pay it back through productive and responsible citizenship tomorrow.” (raisingofamerica.org, retrieved 11/6/14)

Currently in Vermont, 40-50% of children arrive at Kindergarten unprepared.  Examples of kindergarten preparedness:

  • knowing the alphabet and the sounds of the letters,
  • writing their names
  • recognizing colors
  • counting objects and counting forward and backward,
  • identifying numbers, and identifying numbers before and after a given number
  • Separating easily from parents
  • Engaging and playing well with other children
  • Paying attention and following instructions
  • Practical self care skills such as putting on their own boots, zipping their jackets, blowing their nose

Quality early childhood programs provide the skills and resources that will help them to become proficient in the above and more and stimulate the early brain development that will set them up to be successful in Kindergarten.  But in Vermont, as across the country, there are very few openings at high quality early childhood programs.  For 5 STAR programs, such as Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program, the vacancy rate in Chittenden County is less than 1%.  72% of parents looking for childcare for their under 3 year olds report that their search was difficult.  (http://www.childcareresource.org/community-statistics, retrieved 11/6/14) One family featured in the Raising of America preview were pinning their hopes on one high quality center for their 4 month old and when asked what their back up plan was, all they could do was shrug their shoulders and look hopeless.  They are number 40 on the wait list.

Children are being failed.  Families are being failed.  Ultimately the future of the nation is being failed by this lack of high quality early childhood education programs.  It is not over dramatization to state that this is a crisis.  That’s why the work of Let’s Grow Kids is so important in educating people and empowering them to take action to improve the situation for Vermont’s children.  You can find more information about Let’s Grow Kids at their website letsgrowkids.org and you can also sign a pledge to support their work.

October 24, 2014

Children’s Literacy Foundation supports Kids A Part

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:04 am by Lund

Lund is very happy to announce that the Kids A Part program has been awarded a grant from the Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF) to support programming and provides materials to help connect inmates at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF), their children and families through books and storytelling. This support from CLiF will greatly increase inmates’ access to books that they can share with their children and provide opportunities to learn about the importance of reading with children and the art of storytelling.  80% of the women at CRCF are mothers and so this program will have a huge impact on children all across the state.

The grant will provide the following:

1.  Four literacy seminars for inmates – These sessions, presented by a CLiF presenter, will discuss the importance of reading to children and will include tips on how to share books and stories with children even if the inmate is not a strong reader.  Every inmate will be able to take two new books from this seminar to give to children in their lives.

2.  A library of new books for the visiting room – CLiF will donate $2000 of new books to create a library in the visiting room at the facility where there are currently no books to speak of.  The Kids A Part space is fully stocked with books but having the books in the regular visiting room will allow for further opportunities for moms to read with their children during every visit.

3.  Two storytelling presentations for inmates and their children – CLiF will send a professional story teller to give a fun, interactive story telling sessions to inmates and their children and families.  Children will be able to take home two new books after this session.

4.  New books for children of inmates – CLiF will provides hundreds of new books to be distributed to children visiting their moms.

5.  Support for the Storybook Program – CLiF will provide books and volunteers to help inmates make recordings of themselves reading books that they can then send along with the book to their children.   Kids A Part Parenting Program Coordinator Jess Kell reports that this will allow for the Storybook program to take place two or three times a month instead of once as it currently does.  It will also triple the amount of books available to moms participating in this program.

There is a dominant theme in all these details – get books into the hands of children and help their parents, family members and caregivers to enjoy the books with them.  Participating in this program will dramatically increase the number of books inside the correctional facility and ensure that moms know the many different ways they can use them to connect with their children.  ““Reading together during visits,  attending workshops and then choosing books to send home, or recording a book for your child to listen to at home are all such wonderful ways for incarcerated parents to stay connected with their children! Kids-A-Part is very thankful  to have received this grant from CLiF, which will provide the moms at CRCF with many opportunities to foster their children’s love of reading throughout this coming year,” says Jess Kell.

The Kids-A-Part visiting room at CRCF features bookshelves and cosy places to read.

The Kids-A-Part visiting room at CRCF features bookshelves and cosy places to read.

Reading is a simple, normal activity that provides a direct connection between mother and child.  “Parenting can be difficult enough under normal circumstances.  Parenting from behind bars is particularly challenging.  Sharing books and stories can really make a difference to families with an incarcerated parent.” Duncan McDougall from CLiF  One in every 28 children nationwide has an incarcerated parent (that’s the equivalent of one in every classroom) and these kids are often the almost invisible but blameless victims of their parents’ crimes.  Reinforcing the important connection between parents and children gives these children the strength to know that they still have a mom or dad who matters in their lives and cares about them even when they cannot be together.

Thank you to the Children’s Literacy Foundation and all its supporters for helping us to bring the joy of reading together to moms and kids.

October 17, 2014

Getting Outside – Preschool Trip to Shelburne Farms

Posted in Employees, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , , , , , , at 6:27 am by Lund

The kids were ready to go long before the car seats were strapped into the van and the snacks packed up.  Going on field trips is always exciting and this one particularly so – Shelburne Farms!  Six preschoolers, LECP teacher Collin Cope, Cristin Manner, a Behavioral Interventionist from the HowardCenter who works in the Lund preschool classroom twice a week, one parent and one enthusiastic field tripper from Development loaded into the van and set off to have fun on the farm.  We rode the tractor down from the Welcome Center to the Children’s Farmyard where we were met by Rachel Cadwallader-Staub, educator at Shelburne Farms, who helped the preschoolers to understand  gentle ways to touch the animals.  Then we visited the cows, sheep and goats before settling down on a log to watch the parade of chickens come out of their coop for the day.   The kids then went into the chicken coop to collect eggs and see the chickens who weren’t quite ready for the day yet.  They were enthusiastic in their egg hunting, feather petting and chicken feeding.  Then we hit the playroom which was filled with farm toys, a tractor to climb on, hobby horses to ride and all manner of other exciting things that made it a hard place to leave.  The kids had a great time exploring the different toys and I began to wonder how we would ever convince them to leave the room.  It was going to take something pretty special.  How about milking a cow?

"I heard that there were preschoolers out there.  I might just stay in here."

“I heard that there were preschoolers out there. I might just stay in here.”

Collin, who spearheaded the trip, gathered the kids together.  He made them all sit on the floor and sat right down with them.  Once all were quiet and seated (it was not instant as I’m sure you can imagine) he handed them each a plastic vegetable to hold and told them about the really exciting and special thing they were going to be allowed to do.  The kids listened and focused on Collin because he was down on their level making each of his words exciting, speaking low and slow and had given them something to hold to take away the temptation of grabbing at the toys.  He carefully laid out the next steps the kids would have to take – stand up, hold a specific adult’s hand, walk out of the room to the stone wall by the cow.  If the kids deviated from the plan, they were gently reminded and redirected.  No one cried, no one made a break for the tractor, everyone was in control and ready for the next thing.  All the kids made it to the cow and stood quietly waiting as the farmer explained how the milking would work.  They they each had a chance to milk the cow. It was impressive to watch how Collin handled the kids and set them up for a successful transition.

Milking the cow

Milking the cow

“Field trips are important because they expose the kids to experiences they might not be getting at home,” says Collin.  “It gives them a break from the routine of school and gets them out into the community where they can meet new people and interact with them.  It allows them to make connections to real life.  We read books and sing songs about chickens but on the farm they can see chickens, touch them, feel them and connect to the reality of what they have been learning about.  But the most important thing is that it is really really fun!”

By the time we all loaded back up on the wagon to head  to the parking lot, the scene was a little different.  Every child was crying at some point, there was distinct deviation from the instruction to sit properly on the seats.  Hunger and fatigue were settling in.  The other riders on the wagon pretty quickly lost their warm grins.  But without batting an eyelid, Collin and Cristin patiently and lovingly helped the kids to remember what they needed to be doing.  Hunting for bees’ nests in the trees, telling silly stories about people losing their hats and the promise of cheese at the farm shop helped the wagon ride go as smoothly as a wagon being pulled by a tractor on a dirt road can go.  The kids probably didn’t notice the magnificent view of Camel’s Hump over a cobblestone of autumnal trees or hear the honking of a seam of geese sewn across the sky but all of them knew that they had done something special that day.   They might only remember one thing – milking the cow, petting a chicken, bumping along behind the tractor, the sharp taste of cheddar on a stick – but buried down in their brains there will also be the knowledge that they had teachers who were willing and excited to take them out to see the big, bright world.

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