February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 13

Staying Connected Amid Challenges
Lasting lessons from the 2020-2021 " My Preschooler & Me " sessions
By Monica Rauchwarter
D
uring the height of the pandemic, families with young children
were impacted by a lack of safe opportunities to connect. The staff
of Richardson Nature Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, restructured
our usual monthly programs to provide weekly programs
during the 2020-2021 school year. With a combination of virtual sessions and
in-person outdoor gatherings, we delivered 594 hours of preschool programming
in a time when similar offerings were limited. We learned many things
from adapting to the challenges of this era that we continue to implement today.
Cultivating Connections
Richardson Nature Center, located
within Hyland Lake Park Reserve
in Bloomington, Minnesota, is a
gateway to stunning natural beauty
just minutes from Minneapolis. The
nature center and larger park reserve
are part of Three Rivers Park
District, a special park district that
manages more than 27,000 acres of
parks and trails. At Richardson Nature
Center, we offer special events,
school group programs, self-guided
experiences and public programs.
" My Preschooler & Me " is a series
of public programs for children ages
2 to 5 and their adults. The programs
are designed to foster connections
- connection between the caregiver
and child, connection with other
caregivers and children, and connection
to the natural world.
Figuring out how to foster connection
from a distance was challenging,
but we eventually decided upon a
combination of take-home supplies
and virtual sessions. Each themed
take-home packet contained a craft
with all supplies included. The packets
featured coloring pages, an article
or infographic geared toward the
adult caregiver, and a tool to encourage
outdoor exploration. The materials
could be used ahead of, during or
after the virtual session.
Each virtual session consisted of
introductions, a song or story related
to the topic, a lesson or activity related
to the topic, and some unstructured
time to be together virtually while
engaging with the take-home materials.
One advantage of hosting virtual
sessions is the ability to welcome
participants who wouldn't be able to
attend a typical program due to their
location or transportation options.
Though these sessions were different
from our typical programs,
there were many moments of joy.
Watching kids recognize and greet
each other at the beginning of virtual
sessions, seeing their excitement
when showing off their craft or discoveries,
and experiencing the joy
of finally meeting in person are bittersweet
memories from this time.
A Focus on the Outdoors
When we resumed in-person programs
in the spring of 2021, they
were 100 percent outdoors. We modified
the learning centers, provided
detailed communication about what
participants could expect and identified
the additional materials needed
for everything to go as smoothly as
possible. We offered separate materials
for each family group to reduce
the risk of disease transmission.
The gross motor/big body play
equipment, such as tree stumps,
balance beams, and foam mats and
wedges, quickly became worn and
dirty. We purchased picnic blankets,
extra seat cushions and an additional
fire ring in anticipation of cold
weather. A few books were lost to
the elements, and crayons occasionally
melted into the supply caddies.
Despite the extra work and increased
wear and tear on supplies, we recognized
how valuable it is to maximize
outdoor time. As we caught up with
longtime participants, watched people
make new friends and witnessed
children's excitement as they shared
a nature discovery with their adult,
we were reminded that the most important
thing we provide through
these programs is the opportunity for
connection.
The " snow and ice "
packet included a
spray bottle with
washable paint for
coloring on snow and
ice, an article about
ice crystal formation, a
black felt " snow catcher "
lanyard, snowflake
stickers, lyrics to a
song for the virtual
session, and snowflake
coloring pages.
Monica Rauchwarter is an Interpretive Naturalist at the
Richardson Nature Center at Three Rivers Park District
(monica.rauchwarter@threeriversparks.org).
PARK S ANDRECRE AT ION . OR G | FEBR U AR Y 2 0 2 4 | Parks & Recreation
13
PHOTO COURTESY OF MONICA RAUCHWARTER, RICHARDSON
NATURE CENTER, THREE RIVERS PARK DISTRICT

February 2024 - Parks and Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of February 2024 - Parks and Recreation

February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Intro
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Cover1
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Cover2
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 1
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 2
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 3
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 4
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 5
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 6
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 7
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 8
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 9
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 10
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 11
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 12
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 13
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 14
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 15
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 16
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 17
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 18
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 19
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 20
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 21
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 22
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 23
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 24
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 25
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 26
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 27
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 28
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 29
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 30
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 31
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 32
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 33
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 34
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 35
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 36
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 37
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 38
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 39
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 40
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 41
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 42
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 43
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 44
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 45
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 46
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 47
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 48
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 49
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 50
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 51
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 52
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 53
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 54
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 55
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 56
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Cover3
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Cover4
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2024
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/february-2024
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2024
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/december-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/november-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/october-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/february-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/december-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/november-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/october-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/february-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/december-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/november-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/october-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2021
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com