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Partnerships Introduce More Children to the Wonders of Nature

Posted Nov 02, 2020

Gael, Deiseinia, Leonel, and Natalia were among the kids who enjoyed the ultimate childhood experience of attending summer camp at Asbury Woods thanks to scholarships funded through the William and Ethel Hovis Fund of the Erie Community Foundation. 

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Sherrie McIntosh, Migrant Education Student Support Specialist for the Migrant Education Program of the Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit, noticed the Asbury Woods camp scholarship opportunity and immediately contacted Kelley Lang, Director of Education and Community Programming at Asbury Woods. “Due to COVID-19 the usual summer learning and enrichment opportunities that we offer to children enrolled in our Migrant Education Program were not going to be available. We were so grateful to Asbury Woods for helping us to provide this wonderful outdoor experience for four of the children in our program.”

The goal of the Migrant Education Program is to assist and support children of migrant farm workers to ensure their success academically, socially and developmentally and to help them reach their fullest potential. “Due to the temporary and seasonal nature of their parents’ work, these children often change school districts mid-year and/or miss significant numbers of school days or weeks when their families return to their long-term homes for visits between growing seasons. The I.U. Program attempts to help them have continuity and success through a variety of services such as tutoring, after-school activities, summer programs, social services, language services, advocacy and parental involvement,” stated Sherrie.

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After the successful summer partnership, Sherrie and Kelley began discussing ways to extend the relationship between Asbury Woods and the kids and families served by the Migrant Education Program. From these conversations, two after-school Outdoor Clubs specifically for kids enrolled in the Migrant Education Program were developed. Once a week from October – December, six middle school children and eight elementary age children will participate in the Outdoor Clubs. The Migrant Education Program and Asbury Woods will jointly run the Clubs to ensure the goals of the Migrant Education program are met such as academic enrichment and support, while also providing the children with new experiences in the outdoors. 

Kelley Lang noted that, “research shows that children are having less and less time for direct contact with nature and we know that time outdoors and in nature plays significant roles in children’s health and mental development, as well as their future attitudes regarding stewardship of the environment. Opportunities to partner with organizations who see the value in accomplishing their goals through nature-based programs are wonderful ways we can achieve a classic win-win scenario.”  

The Migrant Education Program Outdoor Clubs kicked off their session with a community engagement event at Asbury Woods on Sunday, October 4 for the families they serve. Attendees explored the trails and grounds around the Nature Center to complete a scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt was a way for the families to learn about Asbury Woods and have a glimpse at what their children would be experiencing as part of the Outdoor Club. During the event, families were also able to consult with IU5 staff regarding any resources they might need, received flu shots and enjoyed a boxed lunch.

Donations to Asbury Woods through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program are helping to underwrite the costs for this innovative partnership.