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Living lessons

Elementary school students get outside with Linden Ponds volunteers

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August 29th, 2017
Linden Ponds resident Carolyn Engdahl (center) leads kindergartners (from left to right) Juan Gibson, Tobey Henrikson, Meri Horlbeck, and Alexis Andrew in a hands-on nature lesson.

Linden Ponds resident Carolyn Engdahl (center) leads kindergartners (from left to right) Juan Gibson, Tobey Henrikson, Meri Horlbeck, and Alexis Andrew in a hands-on nature lesson. 

 

Volunteering and giving back to the local community are very important to many people who live at Linden Ponds. Residents have many opportunities to share their time and talents with people on the South Shore through programs and activities at the Hingham, Mass., community.

One of many groups that volunteers in the community is a team of about 12 residents who work with kindergarten teacher Sheila Blake at Grace Farrar Cole Elementary School in Norwell, Mass.

Community members visit the kindergarten classroom five times each school year to provide lessons about nature to supplement what Blake is teaching her students. 

Natural learning environment

“At this point, there are a dozen of us, and we are a mix of retired teachers, social workers, garden enthusiasts, and homemakers,” says resident Ginny Bauer, program coordinator.

Betsy Falk, who volunteers as a school guide at Boston’s Arnold Arboretum, and Carolyn Engdahl, a volunteer tutor in an adult literacy program, help Ginny organize the Cole school volunteers. 

“Those two women design the curriculum and organize the visit,” Ginny says. “I coordinate the plans with Sheila Blake and encourage each of the members of the group to share whatever gifts they have.”

Ginny says she and her fellow volunteers lead the kids in a different hands-on program each time they come to the classroom.

During one visit, they took the children on a nature walk to look at the different types of trees and grasses. 

Other classes have focused on branches or flower buds. 

Last spring, they helped the students plant marigolds and radishes. 

“Last October, we concentrated on seeds, so each of us brought in different varieties of apples and showed them to the children, and we had them notice the different colors, textures, and smells,” Ginny says. “Then, with a knife, we opened the apples and showed how the apples are all the same inside, although they’re different on the outside. The kids were captivated by that.”

Unless it’s raining, Ginny says they take the kids outside, and they try to engage all of their senses. The volunteers also lead the students in activities like songs and stories to reinforce that day’s nature lesson. 

Bonds between all ages

Since the volunteers visit the kindergarteners throughout the year, they all get to know one another well. 

“We go in and see the same children each time, so we see their progression and growth, and they get to know us too,” Ginny says. “Some of these kids don’t have grandparents nearby, so they love seeing older people, and they love sharing with us.”

Ginny says she got involved with this program simply because she enjoys being around young people and giving back to the community. She raised three children herself, and as part of her career in finance, she taught adults about saving for retirement. 

The Linden Ponds volunteers, who happen to all be women, have diverse backgrounds. Some previously worked in education, while others did not. And some never had children, while others raised quite a few kids. But their shared experience as volunteers has helped them form close bonds. 

“Another plus is how these women have come together,” Ginny says. “They’ve gotten to know new people who they wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise, and now they get together outside of when we go to the school to volunteer.”

 

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