A Smithers woman is taking learning in the classroom to the outdoors with a program that she will continue to run from her home as long as the teachers’ strike does.
Rae-Lynn Varga, an early learning coordinator with School District 54, is running the Nurturing Nature program on her property where kids use natural materials to learn, explore and create projects.
“It’s a lot of self discovery and exploration,” said Varga. “They’re 100 per cent in an outdoor environment. They’re using materials that are natural and they’re coming up with their own ideas of how to create things.”
Kids go on nature walks where they can collect plants and examine bear prints, and explore the rock quarry, teepees and outdoor mud kitchen that Varga has set up for them.
“My goal is to create the environment, provide the materials and let them come up with their own way of using them,” she said. “It’s been pretty neat to see how pieces of wood have been transformed into a work of art.”
Varga ran the program in the summer for preschool children, but has continued the program for 12 school-aged kids once she learned the strike would continue.
In the past few weeks, Varga said she has already seen an increase in parents signing their kids up for the program.
“I’ve had a waiting list since the strike started. I know that things are up in the air, but I just decided to keep going until I can get back to work. It’s also providing a service for families,” she said. “I wanted kids to have a place to go and for families to feel that they don’t have to worry about where their kids are at.”
She added she has tried to adapt the program to incorporate some of the elements that kids would get in school, such as working in groups.
“After two months of summer, families and children are ready for learning and to be in the classroom,” she said. “I wanted to make sure these children have that responsibility and self-regulation and all that’s important to maintaining that school life.”
The program runs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and costs $35 for the full day or $28 for four hours.