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“Nature as the Classroom” Outdoor Programs Offer Fun and Unique Learning Opportunities

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ounting tadpoles, w atc h i n g c ate r p i l lars, listening to the birds singing, seeing flowers emerge from seeds planted months before — these are all examples of direct observation, another way to learn and to have fun at the same time. L e ar n i ng out s ide t he classroom has become a popular means to introduce students of all ages to the inspiration of the nat ural world. S chools and other organizations in the Princeton area are offering a variety of outdoor programs to stimulate the imagination and education of kids about the need for conservation and protection of the environment. Students have a good time as they learn in the outdoor setting, and it is never too soon to start. “We believe the benefit is two-fold,” says Rachel Castaldi, publicity chair of Cher r y Hill Nurser y School at 50 Cherry Hill Road. “The fresh air and explorat ion feeds t heir brains and opens their eyes to so many wonders.

It’s play-based learning in the most real sense. These little people have no idea that they are being ‘taught’ something — they think they are explorers, walking around in the woods with their friends, reading maps, and tracking deer prints in the mud. How cool is that?” Nature-Based Cherry Hill Nursery School students are 2 to 5 years old, and there are programs for all of them. The school also brings nature inside the classroom, she adds. “The 3’s class is heavily based on nature, and every year Mrs. Novobilsky, their teacher, brings in caterpillars and the children watch them daily as they go through the stages of change. As a class, they eventually release the butterflies in the woods. So not only do we explore our 200 acres of preserved land, we bring nature inside as well. It is quite common to see tadpoles, baby tur tles, and other small animals inside the 3’s classroom.”

Programs that are offered beside the regular classes for 2s, 3s, 4s, and 5s are Afternoon Enrichment classes Monday through Thursday, says Castaldi. “Forest School is offered one day of the week, and the kiddos spend the entire time outside, weather p e r m i t t i n g. T h e y h i ke and explore the Mountain Lakes Preserve which borders our school. We have a small garden, and every class plants fruits and veggies, and we care for them and watch them grow throughout the fall and spring. In addition to these Afternoon Enrichment programs, all classes are very active in nature walks, gardening, and lots of outdoor play. Nature walks and hikes are an important part of the outdoor program, she emphasizes. “Mrs. Novobilsky leads the charge. The kids enjoy finding tracks of animals and trying to identify which animal they belong to, learning where animals live (nests for birds,

STUDENT GARDENING PROGRAM: The Waldorf School garden features a geodesic dome trellis and raised garden beds. (Photo courtesy of Waldorf School) fox h ol e s, e tc. ) . T h e y learn about tree species and what plants are OK to touch and which ones to stay away from, such as poison ivy.” Bird Calls “They learn how to navigate through the Preserve with maps and by reading the trail markers that are posted on the trees,” continues Castaldi. “They listen for certain bird calls, and learn how to make

their own. “The children love the nature walks and look forward to them with great vigor. The walks usually last any where from 45 minutes to two hours, depending on the age of the kiddos, weather, and overall energy level the class is experiencing that day.” Castaldi points out that all ages take part in the walks, gardening, and time spent outside. The 2-year-

olds have much shor ter walks, but they are outside at least twice a day. “The children love their time outside. On Ear th Day, t he ent ire s chool wa l k s to t he hous e at Mountain Lakes, and rolls down the hill together. It’s quite a sight to see, and hear — lots of giggling!” Gardening Experiences Gardening has long been an important focus at the Continued on Next Page

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TOWN TOPICS, PRINCETON, N.J., WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2019 • 28

Outdoor Programs Continued from Preceding Page

Waldorf School of Princeton, located at 1062 Cherr y Hill Road. Students, pre-K through eighth grade all participate in the gardening program, which includes many diverse gardening experiences. “Our school suppor ts a rain garden, food crop plots, native pollinator

habitat, and even a living roof garden,” reports Valerie Leone, gardening te acher a nd garden i ng caretaker. “Starting with the youngest students in early childhood, outdoor activities are a par t of the daily routine. They include creative play, gardening, nature and farm walks, forest exploration, and environmental stewardship.

“When the walls of the classroom disappear, nature serves as a connection to the real world. The seasonal rhythms, objectivity, and wonders of nature offer a sense of steadiness and ease. Students are able to learn in a very concrete way — from direct observation to hands-on work. Every single subject comes alive when it is related to the natural realm.”

The gardening program at the Waldorf School of Princeton is one of the oldest in the area, points out Leone, and it is a mainstay in the school’s curriculum. “While formal gardening instruction begins in grade three, all early childhood g roups have daily outdoor time, and even tend to their ow n lit tle gardens. Grade school students have weekly nature

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activities and formal gardening classes,” she says. Preparing the soil, planting, watering, and caring for the growing plants are all par t of the learning process, explains Leone. “We have comprehensive sustainability practices, which include daily composting work. We understand that healthy gardens and habitats are essential in our work and part of the hands-on curriculum. The grade six curriculum is heavily focused on composting. “B e c au s e w e h ave a one-acre school garden, students participate in all aspects of real gardening. This includes everything from raising beds in the spring to starting seeds for transplanting to weeding to compost-making and spreading, pruning, weed and pest removal, and of course, harvesting.” The students enjoy all aspects of the gardening program, she adds. “Because the Waldor f curriculum strives to serve each child, gardening activities vary to meet each student. Some truly enjoy heavy digging and sawing, others prefer seed planting, and other students adore flower arranging or garden crafts.” Sugar Maples “In the grade school gardening program, the favorite activity by far is cooking,” says Leone. “Nothing motivates a young gardener more than the promise of a delicious meal. We cook fresh from the garden and make herbal teas at the end of each class.”

The Waldorf gardening program continues yearround, as do all of the school’s outdoor activities, says Leone. “We are firm believers in allowing children of every age to experience every weather and every season of nature. A favorite winter activity is tapping our sugar maples and preparing sweet maple syrup. We are truly so fortunate to have such a diverse and rich natural setting for all of our outdoor activities.” Local Treasure One of the most popular spots in the Princeton area is Terhune Orchards. Located at 330 Cold Soil Road, this longtime orchard and country farm is a local treasure yearround. All ages have fun at this special place, and there are many programs and learning opportunities for children. “Our Tour Program is a great way for children to learn about where food comes from, about family farms, and a behind-thescenes look at farming,” explains Tannwen Mount, event manager and daughter of Terhune owners Pam and Gary Mount. “We offer three seasons of education to all ages: spring, summer, and fall. Children can participate in activities in all seasons, whether it is digging for worms, planting seeds, or picking apples.” Ta n n w e n M o u n t b e gan the popular Read & Pick program, which is a Continued on Next Page

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hands-on education program for ages 2 to 8. These children can come to the farm and learn about a crop or special area of the farm, and then experience it first-hand through picking the crop or through a specific activity. “We have expanded that year-round into our Read & Explore project, which

of fers w inter programs focusing on what animals do in winter, also on planting gardens, and compost. It’s all great education and fun.” Farm Animals Visiting the variety of farm animals is a big favorite for kids of all ages, she adds. “Our animals love visitors all year long. Some of our programs highlight v isiting t he animals or making a craft from their

wool. We have donkeys, a pony, ducks, chickens, dwarf goats, and bunnies in the barnyard. All very fun to visit. Of course, our dogs, Apple and Peach, and our cats love to welcome visitors as well. We have also had some new baby animals born at the farm. Just last week, a baby donkey was born, and in the spring, we had a baby goat.” In addition, the farm trail offers an opportunity to explore nature via a relaxing stroll through the wooded area. Terhune also offers pony and wagon rides during festival times.

Birthday parties, which Tannwen Mount organizes, along with all the other programs and fest ivals she oversees, are another popular event at the farm. Customers enjoy experiencing farming first-hand a nd pick i ng t heir ow n fresh fruit and f lowers, she points out. “We have something available for pick- you r - ow n s t ar t i ng with asparagus in April t h r o u g h O c to b e r w i t h pumpkins. Our teaching programs, Far m Camp, Tours, Read & Pick, and Read & Explore all emphasize the importance of preserved farms and family

farming, sustaining our environment, and providing fresh fruits and vegetables. “Programs can be geared to all ages, with groups from pre-K to seniors. We enjoy tailoring programs to any age or interest, and offer programs year-round.” Water Quality Nature in all its wonder and myriad forms is on display at The Watershed Institute at 31 Titus Mill Road in Hopewell Township. Students, spanning ages from pre-school to college, can learn about nat ure and s cience on the 950-acre Watershed Reserve.

Popular topics include but ter f lies and insects ; animal habitats; pond and stream life; ecology; maple sugaring; Native American life; sustainability; water quality; and the lives of local creatures such as birds, turtles, and crayfish. T h e Wa te r s h e d ’s o f fer i ngs i nclu de we ek ly nature classes for home schoolers, preschoolers, and toddlers. In addition to v ar iou s e du c at iona l activities for elementary to high school students, The Watershed offers fall and spring nature camps dur ing vacation breaks Continued on Next Page

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29 • TOWN TOPICS, PRINCETON, N.J., WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2019

Outdoor Programs


TOWN TOPICS, PRINCETON, N.J., WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2019 • 30

Outdoor Programs Continued from Preceding Page

for students during the school year. College-age students participate in internships on stewardship, policy, green infrastructure, stream science, and water quality monitoring. “Many students of all ages come to The Watershed,” says Tammy Love, The Watershed Institute education manager. “We have school programs for children from 18 months to 12 years old.”

The Watershed is very popular for home schooled students, she adds. “We have weekly classes for home school programs for ages 5 to 8 and 9 to 12. All the classes are naturefocused and also include many field trips.They have a seasonal focus, with such topics as insects, nature/ crafting, astronomy, and butterflies.” In addition, visiting public and independent schools come to The Watershed to explore a variety of outdoor topics that

include trips to the Stony Brook and other waterways to learn about water quality, conservation, stream science, and ecology. Classes on climate ch a n g e, s u s t a i n ab i l it y, astronomy, animal migrations, and other topics are also offered. T he Watershe d hos t s middle school st udents from school districts in the region. These students visit for in-depth programming that focuses on the local environment, team building, and creativity.

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The Watershed educators are teaching professionals who are skilled at helping students make meaningful learning connections. Array of Butterflies The Kate Gorie Butterfly House is a favorite of many visitors, and children of all ages delight in the chance to see the array of butterflies at close range. Open from midMay to early October, it also offers opportunities for students seeking service hours and volunteers to earn how to care for the butterflies, as well as the fish, turtles, snakes, and ot her creat ures in

Thumbelina

The Watershed Center. Special programs and events are featured regularly and seasonally, and two upcoming programs are scheduled for September, notes Tammy Love. “We will have a special bonfire event on September 20 from 7 to 8 :30 p.m. Everyone — kids and families — gathers around the campfire, tells naturerelated stories, and roasts marshmallows. It is a big favor ite, a nd ever yone looks forward to it. “There will also be a Watershed Festival, including a canoe trip on the Dela-

ware River, on September 28. This is a popular water-focused family festival.” T he Watershed offers many year-round pro grams, and is open to the public every day. Online registration is required for the programs. “At The Watershed, we try to make everyone comfortable with being outside and helping them learn a little bit about the natural world and having fun at the same time.” explains Love. “Here, they can learn to love nature, and then want to protect it in the future.” —Jean Stratton

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rom the time children get their first allowance, to savings and checking accounts, to that first credit and debit card, it’s never too early to instill responsible financial habits in the younger set. L e a r n i n g to m a n a g e money properly at any age is not just a way to help achieve a successful career, but is important in ensuring financial peace of mind in later years. Nevertheless, it is not always an area that schools — or even parents — focus on. “Discussing money with kids — let alone teenagers — can be one of the more difficult responsibilities we have as parents, and the earlier you start having these types of conversations, the easier they will be,” explains Brooke M. McGeehan, CFP, branch director, senior vice president, financial advisor, senior portfolio manager, accredited wealth manager at RBC Wealth Management (a division of RBC Capital Markets, LLC) in the Carnegie Center. “Save, Spend, Share” “At RBC Wealth Management-U.S., we provide materials that help our clients educate their children and grandchildren on financial literacy. For younger children, ages 6 to 13, we focus on the importance of ‘Save, Spend, Share.’ This campaign focuses on teaching children where

money comes from, how to earn it, how to make it grow, and how to use it.” Helping them learn about the intricacies of financial responsibility is important to keep them from overspending and finding themselves in an unexpected financial disaster. “For teenagers, the focus is on managing expenses, the consequences of overspending, and understanding financial concepts like budgeting and financial s t ate m e nt s,” cont i nu e s M c G e e h a n . “ Te a c h i n g teenagers about borrowing and the effect of interest charges is especially important before they head off to college. When young adults get to college, they are inundated with credit card offers that seem all too appealing and easy. Without understanding the consequences of borrowing, it is easy for them to load up on significant debt before they graduate.” She also points out that planning ahead for retirement can never start too soon — as far removed as that thought might be from the typical teen’s mind. “It’s never too early to get started. For teenagers who have summer or seasonal jobs with reportable income, opening a ROTH IRA is a smart idea. The teenager can contribute their reportable income (not to exceed $6,000 ). Parents are also able to make a contribution into

the child’s IRA as a gift, provided it is not more than the child’s earned income.” Surprisingly, as important as financial literacy is, it has not been a major focus at many schools, although that is beginning to change. Financial Forefront New Jersey has now joined six other states in passing a law (to be enacted in September) mandating that the state Board of Education include financial literacy instr uction for sixth- through eighthgrade students in public schools. New Jersey has also been in the forefront of establishing a financial literacy program, reports financial writer and certified financial planner Liz Frazier. In a Forbes article, she notes that “In 2014, the state adopted the program ‘Standard 9, 21st Century Life and Careers,’ which includes guidelines for what students need to know and be able to do in order to be successful in their careers and to achieve financial literacy and health. Included are specific financial literacy standards broken out by grade level.” Frazier points out that that most high schools don’t offer personal financial courses, and yet understanding finance is a critical skill needed as an adult. Continued on Next Page

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31 • TOWN TOPICS, PRINCETON, N.J., WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2019

“Banking” on a Financially-Savvy Teen: Learning Responsible Financial Practices


TOWN TOPICS, PRINCETON, N.J., WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2019 • 32

Financial Practices Continued from Preceding Page

“After graduation, every step our kids take from college through retirement will be directly influenced by their ability to manage t heir f inances, st udent loans, credit cards, jobs, mortgages, savings, etc. Once they hit 18 years

old, they are required, and able, to make decisions that could affect their entire life, often without the necessary financial knowledge and skills. “If finance is not required at most high school levels, then it is certainly not a focus at the middle and elementary school level. Which is a shame because

that is exactly when it should be taught. According to a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), childhood financial attitudes, habits, and norms develop between 6 and 12 years old.” When to start kids on their financial journey is, of course, up to parents, and views can differ on al-

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lowances, when to set up a savings and checking account, and so on. “Money Training” A former Princeton resident dealt with her children’s financial education in a straightforward and direct manner. Consider this scenario. Her son and daughter began their “money training” upon reaching the age of 5, basically when they s t ar te d s cho ol. B efore that, it was piggy banks, small financial surprises under the pillow left by the tooth fairy, etc. The parents started allowances, based on the kids’ grade in school: $1 for kindergarten, $2 for first grade, etc. There were chores tied to the allowance — making beds, picking up toys, etc. Should the chores fall behind, there was a money penalty. Same for big drops in grades. Interestingly, some parents do not believe in allowances, but choose to assign tasks and pay for them. If they are not completed, no pay. As one adherent to this view pointed out, “We do

not think children should ‘expect’ to be paid for doing nothing. Our small children were assigned simple chores, such as emptying the waste baskets, taking the trash to the garbage container, and also watering the indoor plants, and putting newspapers and magazines in the proper place. The former Princeton resident, who did give an allowance, adds that the children were encouraged to save at least half of it. Savings accounts were set up in the child’s name, and money not put in the bank could be saved in a home piggy bank, and used for small toys, candy, also t re at s f rom t he Dollar Store, or small Christmas gifts. Closely Monitored “When our kids reached high school, we set up accounts, including checkbooks and debit cards, in their names. Debit cards came in handy when, for example, our daughter was on a high school band trip and needed more money than planned. We put in extra money in these accounts for such needs. All statements came to us, and were closely monitored.” Money earned by baby or pet sitting, cutting grass, painting mailboxes, caring for pools, yard work, and so on was put in the savings or checking accounts, she continues. “We encouraged then to put as much as possible in the savings accounts, and taught them about interest. Also, the

lure of a driver’s license, and then a car, encourages most teens to save!” All of this hard work paid off, she says. “Now that our son is 18, we went to the bank, and he opened his own account. He continues to save, and keeps his debit card only. He doesn’t want to go near a credit card, as he knows how dangerous they can be. I guess it all worked.” A number of banks in the area offer advice and plans to young children and teens about proper financial practices. 1st Constitution Bank has several branches, including one at 995 Route 518 (corner of State Road and Route 518). “We offer tours of the bank to groups such as the Girl Scouts and kids’ recreational clubs, and talk with them about savings and checking accounts,” reports Ashley Williams, branch manager. “Parents help their children establish a savings account, and the kids can be very young, even babies. We give parents $10 when they start the child’s savings account. “We also offer a special free student checking account for 16- to 24-yearolds.” Helping ch ildren and young people is an enjoyable part of the bank’s program, says Williams. “We are happy to help kids get a start on good financial practices. This will help t h e m t h rou g h out t h e ir life.” —Jean Stratton

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The Montgomery/Rocky Hill Rotar y Club will be collecting bicycles to benefit Bikes for the World on Saturday, September 28, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event will be held rain or shine in the parking lot of the Blawenb u r g R e fo r m e d C h u r c h

located at 424 Route 518 in Skillman. Adult and children’s bikes are accepted in all types (road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids) provided that they are in repairable condition (please no bikes with rusted frames). In order to help defray the shipping costs, a $10 donation per bike is requested but not mandatory.

Since 2005, Bikes for the World has been partnering with community organizations in the Mid-Atlantic region to collect 150,000 bikes and sending them to carefully-vetted charitable organizations in over 25 developing countries around the world. These bikes become a valuable form of transportation which allow

people to get to work, do more work because they can travel farther than by just walking, and increase educational opportunities as well as improve access to health care. This is the first year the Montgomery/Rocky Hill Rotary Club is doing a collection on behalf of Bikes for the World. One its members

33 • TOWN TOPICS, PRINCETON, N.J., WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2019

Used Bikes Are Sought For Rotary Bike Drive

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BIKES FOR ALL: The Montgomery/Rocky Hill Rotary Club is collecting bikes to benefit Bikes for the World on Saturday, September 28 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of the Blawenburg Reformed Church in Skillman. was instrumental in getting these collections started at his previous Rotary Club in Frederick, Maryland, where they have now collected over 5,000 bikes in 10 years. The goal is to establish this as annual event in the

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