Janet in volunteer training workshop

Here is the perspective of Janet Pelletier, a Nature Program volunteer in Shrewsbury, VT:

I don’t have children, though I know kids in the community. Our Nature Program coordinator invited me to volunteer because she knew I’d love the training workshops. She was right, I do. I love the model of being together observing and experiencing. I purposely don’t read the material ahead because it’s so joyful to go to the training workshop and learn like the kids do. Then my questions emerge naturally just like the kids’, and I experience the discovery just as the kids experience it. Even listening to the puppet show for the first time. I love it because I get to watch kids have those moments. And the kids all love it. It fits every child’s needs. They are so curious and creative. They like being outside looking at things, drawing, the activities, and the quiet observation time.

Since I’m not a parent, when the kids see me in the hall they KNOW it’s a Four Winds day. I’m a volunteer with the kindergarten/first grade this year. And they’re really excited, like a buzz of anticipation in the hallway. Each time I’m blown away by how into it they get.

Like when we did the Seed Dispersal unit this fall. I’d sprouted some scarlet runner beans. We started by giving kids bean pods, and they found the pods and the seeds inside really fascinating, the colors and the textures. When they opened the seeds and saw the cotyledons inside they were even more excited. And then, when I brought out the sprouted beans, they actually squealed with delight! A whole plant is inside!

Or when we studied winter twigs. Who would have thought these young kids would be excited by them? But we started with the kids blindfolded and passed around the twigs for them to feel and smell, like the fuzzy sumac twig, the stinky cherry twig, and the wintergreen yellow birch. I think they liked the icky smell best, and they wanted to smell the cherry over and over. It’s so easy to be a volunteer because it’s all set up for you, and the kids love to learn this way.

When we introduced the opposite, alternate and whorled branching pattern, I had the kids hold their arms straight out, or in a V, or do a full twirl to act out the patterns. Then for each tree we visited outside, they’d act out the matching pattern sort of as a greeting to the tree. 

They don’t seem concerned about what other kids think. When we do drawing, they don’t have any self consciousness. I love that they are all such good learners. And because I’ve volunteered over the years at different grade levels, I’ve gotten to see how kids figure things out and learn in so many different ways.

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