River Parkway Trust announces new Nature-Based Pre-School Enrichment Program

The Young Explorers Enrichment Program is the first of its kind in the Central Valley


January 6, 2022
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FRESNO, CA – The San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust (Trust) is pleased to announce a new nature-based Pre-K and K enrichment program at the Coke Hallowell Center for River Studies (River Center). The Young Explorers Enrichment Program, which will be entirely outdoors and based on child-led learning, is the first of its kind in the Central Valley.

The new enrichment program is an extension of the Trust's pre-K and K summer camp program, designed to supplement pre-school or classroom learning through nature-based experiences. Children are outside for the duration of each program day, with the environment as their teacher as they learn through play, exploration, and hands-on experiences in the natural classroom. The Trust developed the program's curriculum with inspiration from the Reggio Emelia Approach, which recognizes that each individual's journey is unique, so activities and curriculum should focus on the interests and curiosities of participants.

Nature and play-based early childhood education programs support divergent thinking, motor skills development, cooperation, lifelong curiosity, self-empowerment, a sense of place, and an appreciation for the natural environment. The Trust designed the Young Explorers Enrichment Program to use a child's natural inclination toward joy and wonder to inspire learning.

The Young Explorers Enrichment Program is open to youth ages 3.5 through those currently enrolled in Kindergarten as of the session start date. Each session lasts six weeks, and participants meet Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 1 pm-4 pm.  Most program dates will be at the River Center (11605 Old Friant Rd, Fresno). The River Center features a restored ranch house with educational exhibits, a ¾ mile habitat-themed nature trail, an event barn, a vineyard and orchard, and plenty of open/green space to explore and play in. The first session runs from January 25th through March 3rd. Session two runs from March 22nd through May 5th, with the week of April 11th through the 15th off for Spring break.

"This new program is a great opportunity for families to involve their children in educational activities outside the house and classroom. Young children need unhurried time to explore their environment and stimulate their curiosity," said Julia O'Kane, Trust Board President and former Superintendent of the Madera Unified School District. "The Young Explorers Enrichment Program will provide participants a chance to take concepts learned at school into the outdoors."

The Trust has provided outdoor environmental education programs, including field trips and summer day camps, for more than 30 years. This program will allow the Trust to provide meaningful, nature-based learning opportunities to cultivate a new generation of curious and confident community leaders in the Central Valley.

"From the beginning, the Trust has recognized the benefits of outdoor education to develop the next generation of river stewards. We're thrilled to launch this unique program, which is the first of its kind in the Central Valley." Sharon Weaver, Executive Director   

For more information or to register for the Young Explorers Enrichment Program, visit www.riverparkway.org. The San Joaquin River Parkway & Conservation Trust, Inc. is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit land trust formed in 1988 to create a 22-mile Parkway along the San Joaquin River from Friant Dam to Highway 99. Additional information about the Trust's projects and programs is available at www.riverparkway.org.

Sarah Parkes, Development Director 
(559) 248-8480 ext. 107
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