In this article, we shine our spotlight on three nonprofit organizations that light the fire of learning in our children.
“Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know.” ~ Daniel J. Boorstin (American historian, 1914-2004)
What most of us don’t know about food is quite a lot, and what we don’t know we don’t know about food seems immeasurable. What most of us do know about food is its significance for our health and well-being, perhaps even for our happiness. As with so much else, the best time to learn about food is when one is young, unbiased, and eager to absorb new information . . . and food! A child who is introduced to fresh, health-giving foods at an early age is more likely, throughout a lifetime, to enjoy such foods and consider them to be not only nurturing but delicious.
The folks at The Nutrition Center (TNC) know a lot about food. Here, youngsters can discover the delights of wholesome eating. Throughout the school year, TNC offers Food Adventures in our local schools. Presented in collaboration with the Berkshire Co-op Market, this program teaches students about nutrition and about making healthy food choices. Working in teams, the young people actually prepare snacks or mini meals right in the classroom. They also learn the basics of kitchen safety and the advantages of using locally grown and locally produced ingredients.
Berkshire Humane Society
“No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.” ~ Emma Goldman (Lithuanian activist, 1869-1940)
Intrigued by the link between the words human and humane, I consulted thesaurus.com, which gives 46 synonyms for humane in the sense of compassionate, among them the following: considerate, forgiving, gentle, good-natured, helpful, kind, natural, open-minded, sympathetic, tolerant, unselfish, and warm-hearted. These qualities are sorely needed, perhaps more than ever before, in our distressed and distressing world. And could there be a better way of teaching these qualities to children than by letting them interact with creatures even smaller, more innocent, and more vulnerable than they are themselves?
The Berkshire Humane Society (BHS) offers opportunities for children to learn these qualities, which they can then apply in their interactions with others. During the school year, the BHS offers Party with the Animals, a two-hour children’s birthday party in the classroom, as well as free educational programs for local schoolchildren. Shelter Tours available throughout the year offer youth groups the chance to interact with animals awaiting adoption. The BHS summer day camp, Camp Humane, mixes fun and learning with a balanced curriculum of arts and crafts projects and presentations from a variety of animal professionals aimed at teaching the young camper to be a responsible pet owner.
The Montessori School of the Berkshires
“Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves.” ~ Ernest Dimnet (French clergyman, 1866-1954)
The name Montessori evokes images of independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development. Traditional educational systems focus on book learning, rote memorization, and the acquisition of objective, testable information. The Montessori method, by contrast, emphasizes experiential rather than theoretical knowledge. It uses the discovery model, whereby students learn concepts from actually working with materials. Learning by doing is a joyful experience rather than a chore.
An important feature of the Montessori approach is that children are not divided into groups by age. Rather, each class is a kind of family group comprised of children of two, three, or more age levels. As the children grow older, they take on increasing responsibility, helping to care for their environment and for the younger children in the group. Promoted by this structure, the focus is on cooperation and collaboration rather than on competition. The Montessori School of the Berkshires offers programs for toddlers through eighth graders, afterschool programs, and summer day camp.
~ Rodelinde Albrecht, Concerned Singles, www.ConcernedSingles.com.