In August of 2014, our EcoCamp Director and Teacher Naturalist, Krysta Hougen, received a fellowship from TogetherGreen, to bring preschool programs back into the suite of Pickering Creek Audubon Center programming. The program developed Head Start through Nature provides nature experiences for children ages 3-5 in Easton’s Head Start Program.
Publicly funded, Head Start promotes school readiness of young children from low-income families, with the goal to offer the same opportunities to all students, regardless of income, so ALL children enter school ready to succeed. Head Start through Nature goes beyond Head Start’s traditional practices, and introduces this age group to exploring nature. By engaging an underserved population of students, Pickering is providing enhanced learning opportunities for children and developing lasting relationships with their families- engaging all with the perfect classroom that nature provides.
Head Start is an important addition to our audience because it emphasizes the role of parents as a child’s most important teacher. This focus on families supports our efforts to engage families in their child’s early environmental education with the intention that they continue to explore nature together and the families stay a part of Pickering Creek as the preschooler ages into summer camp and the teen Youth Conservation Leadership program where Pickering Creek can continue environmental and science education in a nontraditional and intimate setting.
Currently, Pickering serves three classes of twenty students each, two times per month throughout the school year. In 2014-2015, 80% of students came from single parent homes where 13% spoke Spanish and 75% were at or below the poverty level, with 43% of students African American and 39% Hispanic.
As a pilot program, Pickering has expanded its range of ages served, meet new families, and most importantly improve student’s readiness for success in school, a terrific example of a working public/private partnership.