YES Foundation's KinderCamp finds a home at UM-Dearborn's Environmental Interpretive Center

July 24, 2006

Michelle Morden, coordinator of the YES Foundation’s KinderCamp, helps a group of young students find pictures of the objects that end with a “K” sound, like fork and clock. The KinderCamp program “found a home” at the campus’s Environmental Interpretive Center this summer, where the students enhanced their literacy skills by reading nature-themed books and participating in activities with UM-Dearborn naturalists.

DEARBORN / July 24, 2006---“The earth gives us everything we need,” writes a young earthworm in the popular children’s book The Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin.

This month, 38 students from Detroit elementary schools got to experience Mother Nature firsthand and brush up on their reading skills, too, during a literacy program at the Environmental Interpretive Center.

The YES Foundation’s KinderCamp, housed at the EIC for the past six weeks, enrolls students in kindergarten through second grade in the Detroit Public Schools who are recommended for extra literacy education.

This year, the camp’s selection of books included nature-themed favorites such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle, and In the Tall, Tall Grass and Where Once There Was a Wood by Denise Fleming.

When the program finishes this week, each child will receive their own copies of the books they read.

With the assistance of several UM-Dearborn graduate-level education interns, the students spent each Monday through Thursday morning reading, working on phonics skills and exploring fun nature-based activities to reinforce their learning. Fridays were reserved for field trips with UM-Dearborn naturalists.

“The benefit of a program like this is the amount of exposure and experience they’re getting,” according to Jaclyn Wharfield, one of the UM-Dearborn interns teaching for the program. Children living in the city might not have the chance to experience all that nature has to offer, she said, but the KinderCamp students saw live deer, groundhogs and other wildlife during their visits.

KinderCamp coordinator Michelle Morden said having the program at the EIC allows the students to learn about their habitat while improving their reading skills, and the creepy, crawly bugs and other creatures hold their interest.

“It eliminates walls and creates possibilities for the children,” Morden said.

Transient and operating out of different classrooms during its first two years in operation, KinderCamp “found a home” at the EIC this summer thanks to a partnership cultivated by education Prof. Seth Hirshorn.

“The camp had been in different places, but the facilities weren’t really good for it,” Hirshorn said. Feeling that UM-Dearborn’s metropolitan presence was a good fit for the program, Hirshorn introduced YES Foundation president and CEO Julia Richie to Prof. Orin Gelderloos, director of the EIC, and the partnership was formed.

“This campus is an excellent setting for a literacy program,” Hirshorn said.

Naturalist and EIC program coordinator Dorothy McLeer and two recent field biology graduates, Eric Bacynski and Jessie White, taught the children about birds during one of the field trips. The students examined goose wing feathers with a magnifying lens and then drizzled water on their feathers to illustrate the "waterproofing." The children also watched birds outside at the feeders from inside the EIC Quiet Room, seeing how many they recognized from the book they were reading that week called Feathers for Lunch.

“I made copies of the images of the birds from the book as their ‘field guide’ and I used the Audubon toy birds with the bird song recordings to talk about courtship and reproduction, passing around several different types of birds' nests for them to examine,” McLeer said.

The children then got the chance to find nests in the Natural Areas.

“We tried to let the wee ones find the nests themselves rather than point them out,” McLeer said. “The kids thought it was magic that the nests were nearby and that birds they recognized were using them. Their curiosity was contagious, for them and for us.”

The UM-Dearborn interns working with the KinderCamp program include Wharfield, Ann Myles, Amanda Wolski and Isabel Mazzei.


High resolution KinderCamp photo 


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