By Julia Corrigan
It was a morning full of games, activities and stories for pre-K students from the Millhill Child & Family Development Center in Trenton when they visited Rider on April 23.
The university has established a partnership with Millhill through the Office of Service Learning. This connection gave education majors in the Bonner Community Scholars program the ability to plan lessons and activities for the preschoolers.
“Today’s lesson for the children is ‘Spring Time in the Garden,’” said Joan Liptrot, assistant director of campus life for service learning. “They are planting some seeds, learning about the parts of a plant and playing some fun games because they are preschoolers and need to be moving.”
Millhill is a nonprofit organization that serves families and children through providing education, counseling and health services to encourage and transform the community. The center brings safety, security and support for abused and neglected children.
Since many of the children who attend Millhill live in Trenton, they do not have backyards or the ability to play outside often, according to Liptrot. So when the students visited Rider, they had the opportunity to enjoy nature.
“We took games like duck, duck, goose and made them seeds, seeds, bloom,” said Liptrot. “The little guys just want to be in the grass and run around.”
In addition to playing games, the children had the opportunity to go into the garden, see many different plants and learn about the growth process.
“The students got to hear The Tiny Seed, by Eric Carle,” said Mary Ellen Allocca, director of education at Millhill. “The event has been a success, and Rider has been a great help.”
“Story Time in the Garden” is the second event that Rider has hosted for the Millhill Center. This past fall, the children came for “Story Time in the Pumpkin Patch.” This event allowed the kids to pick their own pumpkins and listen to a story.
“It was neat when we did it last fall because the preschoolers were in between the BLC and academic buildings,” said Liptrot. “People would come up and say, ‘Hey, how can we volunteer for this?’”
About 40 students volunteered for “Story Time in the Garden,” and the experience was a gratifying memory, according to Sarah Heinzmann, freshman musical theater major.
“This was a really rewarding experience because it’s so nice to see the kids engaged in something so educational,” she said. “It’s nice to see how they play together and get into the activities.”
Allocca hopes the partnership between Millhill and Rider will bring more volunteer opportunities for the university’s students. She encourages the students to spend some time this summer playing games or being crafty with the children at Millhill.
“We would love to have students come in the summer and do some physical education and arts and crafts with the kids,” said Allocca. “We rely on volunteers a lot.”