October 1, 2015

“I hope she stays here forever” – Phyllis Palmer, Volunteer Extraordinaire!

Posted in Awards, Events, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP), United Way, Volunteer Spotlight tagged , , , , , at 11:51 am by Lund

Teachers and children at Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program love volunteer Phyllis Palmer. The children love that whatever she is doing with them, she makes them feel important and cared for and the teachers feel exactly the same way. Phyllis has taken on the charge of caring for the whole program. Childcare Coordinator Judy Harvey says, “Phyllis has gone above and beyond what I could ever expect from a volunteer. Her work with the children is amazing and everyone loves her. She just does what needs to be done, whatever it is. And she takes the most wonderful care of the teachers. It feels like she has been here forever. I hope she stays here forever.”

When there is something that needs to be done, Phyllis gets to it. “I hope that in the few hours I am at Lund each week I can contribute to the collective effort that makes the center so special and run so smoothly,” she says. “Sometimes that includes sweeping the floor after snack, wiping down rest mats or washing a few dishes. It also might mean rubbing the back of a restless 3 year old, or reading a book to whoever needs a lap and some one-on-one time with an adult.”

Phyllis, a retired Kindergarten and First Grade teacher, is especially dear to the older preschoolers. She brings intentional structured activities to work with the children on early literacy and math skills. She is able to bring small groups of children out of the classroom to play learning games and practice the skills that they will need in kindergarten. The children love Phyllis and look forward to their time with her. They refer to her days as “Phyllis Days” and take the “schoolwork” or “kindergarten work” they do with her very seriously.   These children would not have such focused exposure to these activities without Phyllis. She is actively improving their level of kindergarten readiness and giving them tools and experiences that will help them succeed in kindergarten from the very first day. The children are excited about school and know what to expect when they get to Kindergarten.

This genuine and considerate care does not stop with the children. She takes great care of the teachers at the program as well, knowing that the work they do is challenging but crucial for the happiness, stability and education of the children. One rainy summer day she dropped off a new copy of “Blueberries for Sal” and homemade blueberry bread for the teachers to enjoy. She accompanied her gift with an uplifting note that said, “Blueberries need the rain.” She knows and appreciates how hard it is to be stuck inside because of rain with active toddlers and preschoolers who need to run, climb and get outside in the fresh air.   She also has volunteered for two years in a row (in searing heat in 2014 and cold, windy rain in 2015) to work at the rest stop at the Charlotte Senior Center providing snacks and help to riders participating in the Lund Ride for Children.

The teachers at LECP were delighted to nominate Phyllis for a United Way Building Block Award for her outstanding commitment to the program. She was honored, along with many other community members, at the United Way’s celebration breakfast last week held at the Flynn Theater in Burlington.   “Receiving a United Way Building Block Award was quite a surprise! If somehow it sheds light on the amazing job the whole staff at Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program does every day of every week, then I am both honored and humbled.” Once again not missing the chance to celebrate and look out for the teachers who are so happy to work alongside her.

Phyllis (third from right) with the other winners of the United Way Building Blocks Awards for Education at the Flynn Theater, September 24, 2015.

Phyllis (third from right) with the other winners of the United Way Building Blocks Awards for Education at the Flynn Theater, September 24, 2015.

 

August 10, 2015

“You have to bring snacks at Kindergarten.”

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , at 12:01 pm by Lund

It’s a cloudy morning in the LECP playground, early August.  The preschoolers are outside digging in the sandbox, chasing each other around the play structure and pretending to be wolves.   “Let’s be bad wolves,” says one boy to a friend, growling and baring his teeth.  “No,” she replies, “I am good wolf.”  “OK,” he agrees and they bound off together.  In two weeks, six of these preschoolers will move on to Kindergarten.  The teachers have worked with them throughout their time in preschool to build the social/emotional and cognitive skills that they will need to be successful in Kindergarten and have put special emphasis over the past months on helping the children to be excited about this next important step.

Many of the children Lund serves have experienced significant trauma, and the primary focus begins with strengthening children’s social and emotional development. The teaching practices allow children to develop social/emotional competence and self-help skills, as well as offering children the opportunity to explore and experiment safely with different tools and  materials. As children develop, teachers begin to focus more on other skill building activities and curricula that address concepts and domains for learning as addressed in the Vermont Early Learning Standards.

Sharing the playground with children from the toddler room, it is easy to see the difference between the younger kids and these confident, articulate five-year olds.  “Take a picture of me,” one girl shouts as she executes a complex jump from the play structure.  I look at the teacher nervously, “Is that allowed?”  “Oh it’s safe, they do it all the time,” the teacher replies.   These children, and their aerial maneuvers, seem ready for a bigger adventure.  But what do they have to say about it themselves?

Tell me about Kindergarten:

“I’m going to climb a tall tree because they will ask me to.”   – B

“In Kindergarten, I will read books and play.  It’s going to be fun.  The teacher will probably spend the night.  Does the teacher spend the night?”  – J

“It’s a good thing I have a lunchbox.  You have to bring snacks at Kindergarten.  I’m going to bring apples, oranges and goldfish on the first day.”  – A

“Drawing.  I want to do drawing in Kindergarten.  I wish all my friends were going to Kindergarten with me.”  – M

“I know all about Kindergarten because my brother was there.  You get to play on a playground and read with letters.” – J

"This is Jess, my teacher."

“This is Jess, my teacher.”

July 24, 2015

Making ‘Small Talk’ at Lund – Guest post from Let’s Grow Kids

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Events, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:33 am by Lund

(This blog post appeared as an e-mail sent by Let’s Grow Kids to their supporters, partners and fans.  We’re happy spread the word on our blog too)

Last Sunday, at an event called “Circus-palooza” in Shelburne, a single dad took a deep breath and admitted on camera, “Sometimes it feels like you might as well just sit at home and not work at all. Because the expenses of child care are overwhelming. I can’t keep up.”

This hard-working dad was participating in an interview for Small Talk, a new initiative of Let’s Grow Kids and several key partners to collect the personal stories of Vermonters who have interacted with Vermont’s early childhood system.

The Circus-palooza interviews were a test run for Small Talk’s official launch event this past Tuesday at the Lund Early Childhood Education Program in South Burlington. The Small Talk team interviewed seven more Vermonters at the Lund site—including parents, providers and State Representative Barbara Rachelson, who is the Executive Director of Lund (below speaking with LGK Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire).

“We were so honored and thrilled to host Small Talk at Lund, and we’re grateful for all the work that Let’s Grow Kids is doing to spread awareness about the importance of Early Childhood Education in Vermont,” Barbara said. “The families that we work with at Lund are faced with many challenges when trying to find affordable, high quality childcare for their children so that they can work, pursue treatment or continue their education. Helping to make Vermonters aware of these issues and giving a forum for people to share these stories is so critical, and Small Talk is a great way to do that. As a child advocate, working parent, employer, director of a nonprofit organization devoted to the wellbeing of children and families in Vermont and, finally, as a legislator, I am proud to support the work of Small Talk.”

IMG_2868

Community Education Director Molly Loomis and Small Talk Coordinator Lisa Boege Loomis conducting interviews.

This summer, the Small Talk team—LGK community education director, Molly Loomis and Small Talk coordinator, Lisa Boege Loomis (left)—will be on the road, meeting Vermonters across the state and recording their stories on camera. The Small Talk van, a mobile video-editing recording studio, will visit fairs, markets and other community events for scheduled interviews. Small Talk will also visit communities on request. Click here to see a list of currently scheduled Small Talk events or to request a visit to your region.

What will Let’s Grow Kids do with the stories? “Policymakers, community leaders, and others need to hear these stories to understand why the early years are so important and how we can do a better job of giving every child a strong start and equal chance in life,” says Molly. Some of the videos will be posted on the Let’s Grow Kids website and YouTube channel, and will be available for sharing via social media and email.

In one of the Small Talk interviews at Lund a mother said, “We need so many more Lunds. I was incredibly fortunate to find it—I feel like I’ve won the childcare lottery! But if I’ve won, how many other moms have lost?” This mom was speaking to the fact that quality child care is unaffordable and inaccessible for too many families who rely on it in Vermont.

“If I want my son to go to college one day or if we want to do fun stuff like take trips, or go to the beach, or go to the zoo, I can’t afford to keep working in the job that I love,” said an early educator at Lund. Child care professionals in Vermont and across the nation often don’t earn a livable wage because the costs of offering quality care are high, and providers know they can’t fully pass those costs onto the shoulders of already financially strapped parents.

“We really believe in the need for affordable, high quality child care that is accessible to all families,” says Charlotte Blend, communications coordinator at Lund. “The work of Let’s Grow Kids is making important and needed steps in getting this message out to the public and to the agencies that can affect real change. The voices that come out of these Small Talk videos represent the reality that so many parents and teachers face and we were very happy to have this avenue to help share those voices.”

Voices from Lund on real early childhood experiences and challenges.

Voices from Lund on real early childhood experiences and challenges.

To find out how Small Talk interviews work or see a list of potential questions you might be asked, visit letgrowkids.og/small-talk. Small Talk’s next stop is at Lamoille County Field Days in Johnson this weekend. Sign up for that event here.

Let’s Grow Kids is grateful for the support of its excellent partners: Building Bright Futures, Vermont Community Access Media, and The Vermont Folklife Center.

May 7, 2015

Taking Time to Appreciate Teachers at Lund

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Employees, Events, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP), New Horizons Educational Program tagged , , , , , at 10:40 am by Lund

Lund staff members took time this week to appreciate amazing, committed and inspiring work of the teachers in our educational programs as part of Teacher Appreciation Week.  We have 3 teachers at New Horizons Education Program (NHEP) and fourteen full time and 2 part time teachers at our Early Childhood Education Program (LECP).  All of these staff members work hard every day to educate, guide, and encourage their students whether they are 2 or 32!

New Horizons Education Program is an alternative high school placement program licensed by the State of Vermont for up to 35 pregnant or parenting students from age 12 onwards.  Older students meet with Lund staff to assess whether our program can best meet their educational needs.  Students come from as many as 15 different school districts per year.  NHEP staff establishes curriculum agreements with each sending school to ensure that students receive academic credit and have the opportunity to walk with their classmates at graduation ceremonies.  Licensed teachers provide instruction in the four core subject areas, as well as art, physical education, life and parenting skills.  Babies aged up to six months can come to class with their moms.   Students at NHEP share common experiences and form a close community where they can give each other support through the challenges of being a young mom.  Last year NHEP began offering the Community College of Vermont’s Introduction to College Studies Class onsite at Lund to allow students to explore further education options after high school.

The teachers in this program work with students on all aspects of their lives.  A recent lunchtime at NHEP saw one teacher helping a student to write e-mails in response to apartment listings she had seen online, another teacher helping a student with her math homework and a group of students enjoying the presence of one of their sons who was a special guest at school that day because his daycare was closed.    Students will frequently state that if it wasn’t for New Horizons they would not be in school and would have no chance of graduation.

Thank you New Horizons teachers for all your hard work.

Ann Klinkenberg, Mary Farnsworth and Kathy Rossman - outstanding NHEP teachers

Ann Klinkenberg, Mary Farnsworth and Kathy Rossman – outstanding NHEP teachers

Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program serves 50 children from birth to aged 5 with consistent, nurturing and high quality care and education allowing their parents to engage in education, employment or treatment programs. For many of the children this program represents the only stability in lives filled with transition and uncertainty. The teachers work hard to ensure that the program is a resource for the whole family by providing connections to necessary resources both within Lund and in the community to ensure that they have what they need to be successful. Examples of these resources include assistance finding housing or food, parenting education, financial education and providing needed clothing or shoes for their children. Parenting is a partnership between the teachers and the families. The program provides the essentials of safety, food and attention and, equally as important, makes the most of this time of crucial brain formation with activities that optimize and prioritize healthy development. The play based program values curiosity, early exposure to art and music and outdoor play. Lund partners HowardCenter to provide embedded counseling and developmental services in the preschool classroom.  LECP is a 5 STAR program, the highest rating in the state’s STep Ahead Recognition System.

Every day LECP teachers sing, do art projects, play outside, work through problems together, encourage children to try new things and teach the importance of being good friends, helpful community members and joyful participants in the world. They are patient, loving and creative.  Every day they value and cherish every child.

Thank you LECP teachers for all that you do.

Some of our truly dedicated early childhood educators.  (The others were too busy to have their photos taken!)

Some of our truly dedicated early childhood educators.

May 5, 2015

Employee (s!) of the Quarter

Posted in Adoption, Awards, Employees, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , , , at 4:08 pm by Lund

Lund staff members are dedicated, energetic, hard working and passionate. The work that we do is often challenging or difficult. Lund’s leadership team is committed to celebrating the hard work and the amazing efforts of staff members to help the children and families we serve. The Employee of the Quarter award is a way of showing appreciation for this work. This quarter there were two individuals and one team who won the award. So many wonderful staff members, it was impossible to narrow down to one recipient! Meet them here:

Deb Mayville and Director of Operations, Bob Robinson

Deb Mayville and Director of Operations, Bob Robinson

Deb Mayville – Office Administrator
Deb works in the front office at Glen Road and Joy Drive and makes sure that everything runs like clockwork. Deb is often the first face that people see when they arrive at Lund and she immediately makes them feel welcome and supported whatever the reason for their visit. “Deb continues to maximize her role and the impact it has on the agency overall. She does so because she genuinely cares about Lund and wants it to be the best place it can be for all,” says Bob Robinson, Director of Operations. “She continues to grow as a ‘go to’ person and wants to help those she can, when she can. She delivers on her word and with a smile. Every day she takes time to appreciate people she interacts with – both staff and clients. This has had a positive impact on her direct staff and on the culture of the front office.” When asked what her favorite part of her work was, Deb replied, “What I find the most rewarding is watching our clients grow, seeing how open & strong they are to share their life experiences, watching their relationships with their children grow and seeing them transition successfully. I love being able to spend my days working with such caring staff who give so much of themselves and being part of the Lund team.”

Judy Harvey, Childcare Coordinator and Kristin

Judy Harvey, Childcare Coordinator and Kristin McClary

Kristin McClary – Toddler Teacher
Kristin works with the younger toddlers at Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program and can often be found engaged in art projects, reading, playing outside, and taking every advantage to help the children she works with follow their interests and discover new things about the world. “Kristin is the ultimate team player, in that she truly makes sure that she understands the perspectives of others before moving into problem-solving or decision-making,” says Judy Harvey, Childcare Coordinator. “Kristin exemplifies the best of what Lund represents; she’s compassionate and insightful, educated and experienced and very intentional in everything she does. Her quiet unprepossessing place of truly simply wanting to do what’s best for children, families, the program, and the agency shines through everything she does.” Kristin truly loves being with the children and cites sharing in their joy everyday as being the best part of her job.

Julia Connor and Kate Van Wagner, Private Adoption Team

Julia Conner and Kate Van Wagner, Private Adoption Team

Julia Conner and Kate Van Wagner – Private Adoption Team
Julia is Lund’s Private Adoption Coordinator working with families who want to adopt an infant through Lund. Kate Van Wagner is Lund’s Options Counselor and works with pregnant women as they explore the choices they have and provides lifelong support whatever decision they make. It has been a busy start to 2015 for Julia and Kate and they both have faced difficult situations where they have had to think in new and innovative ways to make sure that every client was able to get the support they needed. Julia and Kate are both exceptional collaborators, working well with each other and with the Department of Children and Families and other agencies that Lund works with. Director of Adoption, Wanda Audette, says, “It is a honor and a privilege to be able to work with such professional, thoughtful, ethical, caring and strong social workers who every day go above and beyond for the betterment of our clients.” Both Julia and Kate refer to the excellent members of the adoption department as great support and inspiration in their work.

Thank you to these wonderful Lund employees for the work that they do every single day to help children and families thrive.

March 24, 2015

An Open Letter to Early Childhood Educators*

Posted in Employees, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , at 9:35 am by Lund

Paint hands

Dear Teachers,

Thank you for loving, looking after and teaching my child when I cannot be there. Thank you for being as interested in him as I am. Thank you for practicing patience, love and energy in every single interaction.   I have never seen you look tired or frustrated or even distracted. The work that you do is hard, and repetitive and sometimes must be disheartening. But I would never know. Thank you for reading the same book over and over, thank you for making Play-doh, thank you for picking up thousands of blocks, thank you for singing, thank you for putting mittens on and taking them off and putting them on. Yes, thank you especially for the mittens.

What you do allows me to do what I believe to be good and important work in the world. The ripple effect of you taking care of children allows so much to happen. You are doctors, lawyers, teachers, grocery store clerks, social workers, internet marketing specialists and more. With 700 neurons being formed per second in the little minds you are taking care of, your productivity rate beats everyone else in the world. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that you are forming the future of my family, the community and the world. Your job is the most important one.

You support me as a parent. You often advice, share funny moments and don’t judge when I forget to bring more diapers, provide you with only most erratic collection of spare clothes for wet afternoons and cannot execute the swift goodbye needed when there are tears. The last goodbye is always for me.

You are the few people in the world who understand my child’s words in the same way that I do. You listen to his voice and you hear it. I see so much of you in his play, his interactions and his words at home.   I wish I could take credit for many of his more refined and reasonable behaviors but really it should be yours to celebrate.

I know that you are not well paid and that most people don’t understand the absolutely crucial nature of what you do. This is through no fault of your wonderful school but a statewide, perhaps nation wide, under appreciation for the work of Early Childhood. I know your hours start early in the morning and continue until late in the afternoon. I know that you cannot leave until the last child has been picked up, the chairs put up and the dishwasher running.   There is no long summer break for you. You have to follow all sorts of regulations, rules and recommendations. So much, every day is your responsibility. I admire you even more because of these things.

I could not do what you do and I am so thankful that you do it. Please know that so much of our success as a family and my peace of mind at work is because of you. There is so rarely time to say it in the morning when I am watching the clock, filling you in on horrible night’s sleep and how my toddler’s emergent speech appears to have him swearing like a sailor at the moment. And in the evening there are boots to struggle on, toys to be pulled away from and the overhanging perennial question of what will we have for dinner. So I say it to you now, thank you for all that you do. Thank you for loving my child.

A grateful parent

*Shared by permission of the author and applicable to teachers everywhere

March 18, 2015

Kim Coe appointed to Building Bright Futures Council

Posted in Awards, Employees, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , , , at 10:56 am by Lund

Kim Coe, in her office at Lund's Glen Road Residential Treatment Facility, Spring 2015

Kim Coe, in her office at Lund’s Glen Road Residential Treatment Facility, Spring 2015

Kim Coe, Lund’s Director of Residential and Community Treatment Services, has been appointed by Governor Peter Shumlin to Vermont’s Building Bright Futures Council for a two year term.  Kim sits on the council as a representative of the Vermont Parent Child Center Network.

Of her appointment, Kim says, “I am honored to be appointed to the council. Its membership includes many dedicated and inspirational people who have committed their career to early childhood issues and it’s great to be a part of that environment.  It is exciting to be on the front end of the activity as Vermont is rolling out all of our Early Learning Challenge – Race to the Top Grant activities.”

Kim has been working at Lund since 1996 after seven years experience working at Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) in Burlington, VT as an investigative social worker.  As the Director of Residential and Community Treatment Programs, Kim oversees Residential Services including our 26 bed residential treatment facility and our transitional housing program, Substance Abuse Treatment Programs, Children’s Services, Transitional Services and Education.   Kim’s wealth of experience and unending commitment to vulnerable families has led her to receive many awards and recognitions. Her work has been recognized in Vermont by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association in appreciation of efforts to advance the substance abuse treatment field to support women and children.  Kim received the Outstanding Professional Award from the KidSafe Collaborative in 2011.  She has served as President of the Vermont Foster and Adoptive Family Association for six years and also President of the Vermont Coalition of Residential Providers.

The Building Bright Futures Early Childhood Advisory Council was created in 2006 by Governor Douglas and then in 2010, Building Bright Futures was established in Vermont statute, Act 104, protecting it from changing political climates. In July 2011, Building Bright Futures became a nonprofit organization that now serves the dual role as the State Early Childhood Advisory Council and the governance structure for the early childhood system, aligning the work at the State level with the work of 12 regional councils across Vermont to promote improvements in access, quality and affordability of prevention and intervention services for families and young children birth to eight. This work includes maintaining a formal system for planning, coordinating and integrating early childhood programs, policies, information and resources that are recognized, consistent and supported at the State and regional levels. ( http://www.buildingbrightfutures.org)

Lund is a Parent Child Center and works with Building Bright Futures in all of our early childhood work – our Early Childhood Education program, Children’s Integrated Services, Home Visiting and Supervised Visitation.   We fully support their goal that all Vermont’s children by healthy and successful.

 

 

February 12, 2015

Burlington Tedx Ed Brings Together Teachers, Parents, Advocates for Young People

Posted in Events, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services tagged , , , , , , , , , at 4:39 pm by Lund

“Because everyone knows that it’s not OK to take food from the fridge and use your  body to smear it all over the floor, right?” Asked Gail Rafferty during her recent TED talk at the Burlington TEDx Ed put on by Building Bright Futures and Let’s Grow Kids.  Gail, a Parent-Child Interaction Therapy Coordinator at Howard Center in Burlington, was recounting a moment from her children’s early years when her inattention and distraction led to an extremely joyful session of ‘yogurt skiing’ while her back was turned.  Her talk titled, “Parenting: A Completely Natural and Improbable Undertaking” spoke about the need for all parents to connect to each other, to support each other and to have help in parenting so that moments of inadvisable food use become happy memories and not triggers for anger and regretful snap decisions.

Gail’s was one of 8 TED talks from local educators, consultants, and medical professionals all themed around growing up. Hosted and emceed by Jane Lindholm, the talks took us from the power of play to basic brain development to parenting advice.  All were sprinkled with compassion, humor and genuine amazement at the power and limitless potential of children.  Some were more scientific and presented hard data about brain development and the current pattern of investment in educational systems and some used rubber chicken feet.  Lisa Guerrero of ‘Serious About Play’ waved them provocatively at the audience trying to find out who had lost their play instinct and who was ready to dive right in and allow themselves to remember and revel in the power of play.  And some of the talks called a little upon on the magic of childhood.  Tracey Girdich, an interventionist in the Early Childhood Program of the Child, Youth and Family Services division of Howard Center, described how she entices children into connection, social thinking, early literacy and therapeutic play by telling stories with fairies who come out of her sparkly story box.

The stage at Main Street Landing with a fleet of bikes, a sure symbol of growing up.

The stage at Main Street Landing with a fleet of bikes, a sure symbol of growing up.

All of these ideas, theory and scientific insight was translated into practical advice that anyone who spends time with children could take away and apply.  Read, tell stories often, model the behavior you want to see, listen, play without inhibition.  Mark Redmond, Director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services made this concrete in his talk entitled, “What Advice Would you Give a Room Full of Parents?”  There was a furious shuffle of note taking as Mark gave  insights from his own parenting journey and his work as Director of an Organization that works with young people battling homelessness and substance abuse.  His bulleted list of advice can be boiled down to this – be there, love unabashedly, and hold kids accountable.

With conversation and opinion sharing well facilitated by Jane, a welcome musical break from A2VT with their irrepressible hit ‘Winooski My Town’ and several videos of talks from the National TED stage, the day was filled with the vibrant exchange of information and inspiration.  The talks were filmed by RETN and will be added to the TED website in March so they can be shared widely and enjoyed by those who couldn’t get tickets to this sell out event.

Now since I have finished putting up a picture of Jackie Robinson (share stories of inspirational people with children) while enjoying yet another viewing of ‘Winooski My Town’ on Youtube (connect with people from different cultures and embrace community), I think I might go and see if the Preschoolers want to do some yogurt skiing…

Jackie loves yogurt

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.

September 19, 2014

Family Dinner at LECP

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Events, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , , , , , at 9:46 am by Lund

What better way to celebrate the start of fall than with a delicious community dinner outside complete with musical entertainment and lots of friends to play with?  This was scene on Wednesday night at Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program at the Hoehl Family Building.  Kirtani Mathauer, teacher in the young toddler room, led the event inspired by community cooking classes and dinners she had helped with at other early childhood programs.  She was looking for a way for families to connect and spend some time together getting to know each other.  Parents drop off their children at different times and so their paths may never cross despite their children spending all day together.   This event was a chance to meet and eat together.

Research shows that eating together as a family is good for the brain, health and spirit of all family members.  Yum!

Research shows that eating together as a family is good for the brain, health and spirit of all family members. Yum!

The sun even made an appearance after a day of clouds and it was still warm enough to eat, play and dance outside.  The menu consisted of pasta, meatballs, eggplant parm, salad, garlic bread, and dessert provided by LECP and also dishes brought by families.  There were even enough leftovers to enjoy for lunch the next day.  After dinner LECP teacher, Collin and his friend Kyle played music.  There’s nothing like toddlers dancing with their friends to a John Prine cover in the waning light of an early fall evening to make you feel pretty good about the state of the world.  The play structure built last Spring by volunteers from dealer.com served as great front row seating for the show and also provided the usual jumping and climbing entertainment for the children.

“I’m proud of the turnout,” said Kirtani, “one parent told me it was the best community dinner he’d been to at an education program because it was so relaxed and gave everyone the time to eat, have fun and talk.”

Healthy eating is a key priority at LECP as many of the children come from families struggling with food insecurity or limited access to nutritious food.  The children eat meals and snacks family style and learn how to behave considerately at the table while they enjoy a wide variety of dishes cooked on site in the school kitchen.  Lund is planning expand the food program to run parent-child cooking workshops.  This will be helped by a recent generous grant  from Seventh Generation that will provide the needed equipment to set the kitchen up efficiently and safely for the children.

Kirtani plans to organize another family dinner next year and attract even more families to share a meal together.  Thank you to all the teachers who worked hard to make this event come together and to all the families who attended and brought food to share.

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