EARLY ED: April events celebrate the importance of education, environmentPublished 6:33pm Saturday, April 12, 2014
Their minds are like sponges at this critical stage of life, absorbing massive amounts of information about the world around them. From infancy to the age of five, children are learning — how to walk, to talk, to use their hands and minds. Without stimulation, that process can be stunted and its negative effects can last a lifetime.
This is why, every year, child advocates and educators take to the streets of Washington for the Week of the Young Child parade: to promote awareness of how important it is to foster a learning environment for every young child.
This is why, every year, Earth Day is held at Eastern Elementary School: to give young learners a hands-on experience that teaches about the importance of trees and bees and bugs; about the importance of being a good steward to the environment — lessons that will hopefully last a lifetime.
Friday, the Washington waterfront was packed with children from head start programs, childcare businesses, the Beaufort County Developmental Center, pre-K programs and home childcare centers. With them were parents, grandparents, child educators and advocates, Department of Social Services representatives and early childhood education students from Beaufort County Community College. Many were dressed in light blue T-shirts proclaiming April 6 through April 12 the Week of the Young Child, as they marched up Stewart Parkway and back down Main Street to land in Festival Park for an afternoon of fun.
Carroll Worrell-Barnes, childcare services supervisor with Beaufort/Hyde Partnership for Children, said the parade numbers, the T-shirts, the festival, is simply a way to bring recognition to the important place children are in in their early years — in brain development, as well as learning physical and social skills.
“We now know, children, the earlier they begin education, the better the success they’ll have in school,” said Worrell-Barnes, a woman colleagues refer to as a “childcare guru.” “These are critical years — it sets the foundation.”
Setting another foundation in this critical stage of learning is what Eastern Elementary’s Earth Day is about, according to its organizers.
“Earth Day teaches them the importance of taking care of the earth and learning to respect how important bee and worms and insects are to this world,” said Elizabeth Picone, Eastern Elementary’s school counselor, who organizes the event with Lois Hoot. “When you do start it early, it carries through with them.”
While their younger counterparts were engaging in developmentally applicable activities at Festival Park (like building with blocks and exercise routines with Zumba instructor Trish Ward), Eastern Elementary preschoolers, kindergartners and first-graders were learning how to care for bees, why it’s important not to litter, but important to recycle, how plants grow, how the food chain works and many other vital parts of how nature works and what they can do to take care of the environment. Children visited eight of the 19 separate stations, each manned by volunteers, including Clyde Sorenson, an N.C. State University entomology professor, and two of his grad students, armed with a collection of unusual, and live, insects and Dr. Marty Poffenberger, Pamlico Animal Hospital owner and veterinarian, who brought a Sulcata tortoise, guinea pigs and two puppies from the local animal shelter.
“It’s hands-on. We feel that’s very important to the age group of children, so they can learn. They have to be active to learn,” Picone said. “It’s funny, because they’ll be able to talk about it and be able to connect it to their everyday life, and that’s nice, because you see it making a difference.”