At Killington Elementary School, the Four Winds Nature Program fits right in amongst a culture of exploring the outdoors. When speaking with volunteers Katy Forgues and Beth Sarandrea, they exchanged grins when asked about their favorite ways to spend time outside. “We laugh because we do a lot of these things together,” said Katy, “Killington is a very active community. A lot of the kids and parents get out biking and hiking…” Beth added, “Skiing and snowboarding!” Katy shared the joy of being in the woods in the early morning, hearing the ruffed grouse drumming, and feeling part of something really special. For Beth and Katy, sharing this love and appreciation for the natural world with their own children and peers is pretty much second nature. 

“I love science and being involved in the classroom,” Beth shared, “and my dad was a science teacher. It’s fun to share the wonder.” 

Said Katy, “I’m a scientist and former teacher. I can’t not do it!”

Both volunteers started participating with Four Winds when their kids were in kindergarten, and they’ve been able to see the progression of learning as they entered the third and fifth grades. Katy shared about teaching the Galls Galore unit in her daughter’s third grade class. “I love the perception of the younger kids, how they get into their imagination and run with it.” And the learning sticks. Katy received a text from a fellow parent and friend saying that her son had come home with “something” [a gall]. He told her there might be a wasp inside and that he wanted to keep it until it hatched out! 

“Kids are really interested in these secret worlds, small things – like galls, or digging in the dirt, getting nitty gritty,” Katy said. That fascination extends outside of the school day when children share what they’ve learned in Four Winds with their parents at home, helping them learn about topics they’ve never heard of before. 

Beth and Katy really see the benefit of Four Winds, especially in getting kids outside. “Kids love having parents in the classroom,” Beth said, “They’re excited to go outside and learn because otherwise they’re not doing it too much.” Katy noted that at the beginning of the pandemic, many classrooms moved outdoors, which was great, but now they’re back inside. “It’s sad to witness kids not getting outside as much anymore. Parents notice too. I’m glad Four Winds is getting them outside more.” 

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