On an early fall day outside of Essex Elementary School, Four Winds volunteer Breana Fucile prepared to teach Galls Galore. She set out gall specimens on paper plates for the students to observe, and the kids quickly went to work examining each one. Suddenly a giant gust of wind swept through the schoolyard, scattering the paper plates into the air as the gall contents flew in all directions. Shrieks of laughter erupted as the children ran to gather everything back up.
Breana began volunteering for Four Winds Nature Program in 2018. Her husband had been a volunteer for the program when their oldest daughter was in kindergarten. “Stepping outside offers so many opportunities for learning,” Breana notes. A path near the school is often visited during Four Winds lessons and a stream nearby prompts one of Breana’s favorite memories – finding tadpoles with the students. According to her, the stream is a great spot for catching frogs, a fundamental skill of childhood.
“Every time you teach is a different experience,” she shared, remembering how apprehensive she was with the material in the beginning. She now coordinates the program for Essex Elementary and encourages her Essex volunteers to become familiar with the information but then adapt it to what they and the students are interested in. As soon as she started focusing on the learning activities rather than on sharing information it became much easier for her to lead the lessons. She’s seen the spark of curiosity about nature ignite for many children in her classes over the years, watching that sense of wonder grow. She hopes more teachers are able to take their classes outside to learn and is grateful that Four Winds continues to be part of the learning experience at Essex Elementary.
From her own childhood, that spark of curiosity was ignited by visiting Rye Beach in New Hampshire. She developed a love for the ocean with the rocky shoreline, and it became a favorite location to explore tidepools and make new discoveries. “Sand beaches are nice, but there is something so serene and unique about a rocky beach with tidepools,” she said.
Even though Vermont is a landlocked state, Breana takes the skills she’s learned from Four Winds and applies them by the coast when she goes there now. She enjoys seeing her own children explore the same tidepools she visited as a child and appreciates that the skills they’ve gained together from their time with Four Winds can be taken anywhere they go.