Local Non-Profits Team Up To Provide Shared Services For Young Children

It started informally, led by a few parents whose children were enrolled in afternoon pre-school programs at the Rye Nature Center. They had been picking their kids up at the end of the Rye Presbyterian Nursery School morning program, going home for lunch, and then coming back to the Nature Center for an afternoon program.…

Published November 21, 2011 9:47 PM
3 min read

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lawyerthumbIt started informally, led by a few parents whose children were enrolled in afternoon pre-school programs at the Rye Nature Center. They had been picking their kids up at the end of the Rye Presbyterian Nursery School morning program, going home for lunch, and then coming back to the Nature Center for an afternoon program. They asked staff if instead of all that driving, it would be okay for them to bring their children straight to the center and have lunch there. 

 

By Bill Lawyer

lawyer003It started informally, led by a few parents whose children were enrolled in afternoon pre-school programs at the Rye Nature Center. They had been picking their kids up at the end of the Rye Presbyterian Nursery School morning program, going home for lunch, and then coming back to the Nature Center for an afternoon program. They asked staff if instead of all that driving, it would be okay for them to bring their children straight to the center and have lunch there.  

“We said sure!” said RNC Director Christine Siller. “And that’s when the light bulb went off in our heads. Why not make a formal, collaborative extended day program for the 4 and 5 year olds?”

 

While their missions are not identical, the pre-school and the nature center both focus on developing skills, knowledge, and values through a “hands-on” curriculum. The nursery school has the classrooms, and the nature center has the woods, ponds, and wildlife habitat. And the parents save time and gas, with just one drop-off/pick-up per day, instead of two.  

 

lawyer005Over the summer Ms. Siller worked with RPNS Director Cheryl Flood and Coordinator of Curriculum and Professional Development Kathy Price to plan the program scheduling and administration details in order to get it started in September.

 

One big advantage is that the two facilities are located right across the Post Road from each other – which eliminated the need for busing.  
Ms. Siller and Ms. Flood were confident that the program would be a success, knowing many determined parents in Rye were looking for extended day programs.

 

They decided to start with just two days of collaborative programs – Wednesdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays, parents would drop their children off at 10 a.m. at RNC, where they’d have class until 11:30. The staff would supervise the children for lunch and bring them to RPNS for their afternoon session, which ends at 2 p.m. Parents would pick up their children at the school. On Fridays, the schedule is reversed, with children being walked to RNC for afternoon activities. Each session provides opportunities for 12 children to participate, for a total of 24 per week.

 

Next came the curriculum development process, led by Programming Director Mary Gillick and assisted by environmental educator Christy Conley. They designed a schedule of 13 weekly programs, starting in September. Each week had a different theme – mostly relating to the changing features of nature in the fall and winter. Among the topics were planting a fall garden, studying monarch butterfly migration, frogs and hibernation, and ice and snow.  

 

lawyer008Each partner handles the registration and fee collection for its part of the program. “We didn’t really market the program,” said Ms. Siller. “It was just announced to our participating parents.”  

 

And the response was resoundingly positive. They ended up having to set up a waiting list in case anyone dropped out. By mid-October, the RNC and RPNS staff decided to offer a second set of programs, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These will get underway in January.  

 

Doubling a business in four months is an accomplishment that any start-up company would be happy to achieve. Now they pair are looking for ways to provide similar collaborative and shared services projects with other local educational institutions.

“I guess we’ve filled an educational niche here in Rye,” said Ms. Siller.

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