10/11/10 — Learning heads out to the park

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Learning heads out to the park

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 11, 2010 1:46 PM

Despite the slight chill in the air, 3- and 4-year-olds from Kid Kollege in Rosewood and Little Bulldogs in Grantham enjoyed a "beach day" at Stoney Creek Park on Wednesday.

Zachary and Sam climbed boulders, while Avery Jennette, 3, focused on searching for seashells hidden in a sandy area of the park.

"I found this one. Whoa, I found a big one," she said, adding to her already brimming collection. She located a large plastic tray to contain her treasures, before walking around to see if she had missed any others.

In another area, Chase picked out beads and pipe cleaners for his "make your own beach" craft project.

Karen Padgett from the Health Department handed out bottles filled with water and sand, explaining how the tiny colored capsules they added would soon be transformed.

"When you leave them in the water and keep checking them, they'll become an animal -- it could be a crab or a whale or a squid or a big shark," she said.

Every few minutes, a whistle blew, signaling it was time to change stations.

"Put your (craft project) in the basket and follow my bubbles," said Teri Thompson, a program specialist with the Partnership for Children of Wayne County, dipping a wand into a tall bottle of liquid. "I have the bubbles. Follow me to the sandbox."

The former Head Start teacher said she sometimes misses the classroom.

But on days like this, she gets to relive the experience.

"This is one of my favorite activities," she said. "I like outdoor learning. I think children can learn so much more from being outside.

"For children that have special needs, they retain information because they're actually doing hands-on activities and they're totally engaged in the whole process. And the teachers love it, too, because they get out of the classroom and in a different setting."

The event was part of an effort to promote outdoor play, hosted by the Partnership.

"We've tied Stoney Creek Park into our NAP SACC Program -- Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care -- in a unique collaborative with the City of Goldsboro and the Health Department," said Patty Huffman, executive director of the Partnership.

The program, started in 2007-08, ties into a Fit Community Grant that came to the city, Mrs. Huffman said.

"Part of that grant paid for the children's area at Stoney Creek Park," she said, explaining that the authentic boulders, a butterfly garden and the "Born Learning Trail" were also funded by the grant.

The walking trail, which circles the park, features signs along the way with tips and suggestions on how to create natural learning opportunities for children.

In addition to the park outings, the NAP SACC program has also allowed for container gardens to be added at the facilities and provides a nurse or dietitian to work with the child care providers on nutrition and health.