By Emily Klingman
Students may have wondered why children were running and playing on the Campus Green last Friday morning, Oct. 24. At-risk preschoolers of Mill Hill Child and Family Development program in Trenton came to Rider to spend some time outside.
The Bonner Community Scholars hosted this event. Katharine Jaworski, the environmental impact intern for the Bonner Scholars program, believed it was a positive experience for the kids.
“It was a good time for them to get outside, they don’t normally get to run around,” said Jaworski.
Titled “Story Time in the Pumpkin Patch,” the event featured student volunteers who read the book How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin by Margaret McNamara and engaged the children in other pumpkin-related activities. They explored pumpkins with their tactile senses by placing their hands into pumpkin guts and holding the seeds.
“The kids were very enthusiastic, the teachers and kids really enjoyed it,” Jaworski said.
Chelsea Jenkins, urban educator coordinator within the Bonner Community Scholars, felt the event was a huge success, and praised the volunteers who helped make the event possible. Volunteers for the event included participants from Rider Serves, Bonner Community Scholars, and other students who were acting independently.
“We had a wonderful turnout of volunteers with a majority of volunteers having a science or education background,” said Jenkins.
The children also picked pumpkins from the Campus Green that were grown in Rider’s own community garden. Volunteers helped pick the pumpkins and assisted in the painting and decorating process.
Teachers from Mill Hill acknowledged that this was a rare treat for the children, and they were pleased with the kids’ enthusiasm.
“They said that since the children were from Trenton, most do not have the opportunity or the luxury of something as simple as sitting and placing their hands in the grass,” said Jenkins. “Through this event the students were able to experience and learn more about fall and nature than they would have in the classroom setting.”
Volunteers also led the children in autumn and Halloween songs, and helped them collect leaves from around the Campus Green to complete a leaf-rubbing craft activity.
The idea for this event came from Joan Liptrot, assistant director of campus life, and Jenkins. They specifically chose Mill Hill and its students based on their level of need.
Jenkins wanted to hold this event coinciding with Make a Difference Day, the national day of service so they “could cater to and serve the youngest Trenton population.”
There are also plans to hold a similar event in the spring, especially after hearing the comments that the children lack exposure to nature.
It will be “similar to the pumpkin event and hopefully on a larger scale in the spring at the community garden,” Jenkins said.
The idea right now is to “have them paint their own plants, and we’re going to teach them about compost, plant care and whatnot,” Jaworski said.
Jenkins believes both the students and volunteers from Rider gained a lot from this event.
“The volunteers gained real-life, practical experience, helping manage and facilitate tasks to preschool children, which I’m sure they learned can be extremely challenging,” said Jenkins. “Rider students who did not participate in the event also gained a bit of excitement and happiness on a gloomy morning.”
Jenkins also added that she later found out the app Yik Yak “was full of comments about the Mill Hill children and about how Rider students wished they were out playing with the children.”
Printed in the 10/29/14 edition.