HANFORD — Little first-grade bunnies from Washington Elementary School hopped their way through Peter Rabbit’s home and into Mr. McGregor’s Garden, where they were able to learn about and even taste Swiss chard.
It’s not exactly how the story played out in Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” but it’s close enough.
The Hanford students were on a field trip to the Children’s Storybook Garden and Museum, whose board of directors recently paid off the entire property mortgage, thanks to a generous donor.
“We’re elated,” said Judy Wait, founding member and board president. “We’re all so excited.”
Just six months ago the Garden looked extremely different; there were a few structures up, but it was mostly just leveled dirt. Now, flowers and plants are all over the place and there’s something for children to do around every corner.
The activities include a reading room; a “pizza garden” where kids can grow food that goes on a pizza; an excavation site; an “ABC animal garden”; and multiple other gardens and fun activities.
Dave Jones, who is the marketing director for the Garden and one of its founding members, said along with literacy, one of the main goals is to teach children about how vegetables are grown and how to make nutritious and healthy eating choices.
The vision of the garden started six years ago, when Wait told Jones that she wanted to purchase the property that was behind the library on the corner of 10th and Harris streets. She wanted to create a literature-themed garden for all children to read, play and learn.
Bill Clark, who owned the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture outside of Hanford, also owned the property behind the library and sold the land to the Garden, Jones said. In 2013, Clark also donated the Victorian farm house that now sits in the middle of the Garden.
The farm house was relocated to the Garden site and restored, and now is the site of the reading room and demonstration kitchen, and will also feature other educational programs in the future. Since its soft opening, Wait said around 1,500 students have already visited the site.
“This is what a community can do,” Wait said. “It’s a community project, it truly is.”
And when Wait says it took the community, she means it. There’s a banner on the side of the welcome sign with over 70 names of individuals, businesses and organizations that donated or helped in some way to make the Garden possible.
Bricks and plaques also adorn the gardens with the names of some of those who helped.
“We never went in debt for anything more than our property,” Wait said. “So what you see is all paid for.”
The Garden currently has two certified teachers who lead the kids on tours and teach them about plants and vegetables, and Wait said there are over 80 volunteers who spend some time there during the weekdays and even weekends.
“When you bring people in here, it's just amazing,” Jones said. “They just get excited and say they can’t believe this is here.”
As far as the future of the Children’s Storybook Garden and Museum goes, Jones said funding is still needed to purchase a giant treehouse that will sit on the site, and there are plans to develop part of the currently unused land to rent out for weddings or other events.
LEMOORE — Admiral Akers School and R.J. Neutra Elementary on board Naval Air Station Lemoore have introduced Anchored4Life to their students for the 2017-18 school year; a club devised by the Trevor Romain Company, Anchored4Life, gives military children the tools and skills needed to manage the often-challenging process of transitioning schools and communities and braving deployment.
Anchored4Life targets elementary-aged youth and is designed to be student-led and flexible, allowing trained student team leaders to decide how they want to implement the program and what areas they’d like to focus on. The hope to this approach is that these students will be more invested in the club and use their leadership skills to reach out to new students, students who are moving, and those who are going through the deployment cycle. Currently there are more than 2 million children in the United States with a parent serving in the military.
“The concept is to have kids connect with kids and show empathy to their various circumstances,” said Akers Anchored4Life advisor Clare Huff.
With Carrier Air Wings (CVW) 11 and 17 presently deployed and CVW-2 and CVW-9 slated for deployment in 2018, Neutra’s Anchored4Life club has chosen to focus on helping students deal with the unique circumstances deployment presents. Children of those service members are invited to join the Deployment Club, where they can receive camaraderie and support from each other. They also receive a Deployment Kit from The Comfort Crew, a nonprofit organization that has teamed up with Anchored4Life.
“This club is extremely important due to the amount of parents who are constantly deploying in our community,” said Diana Chaney, the Anchored4Life adviser at Neutra. “The kids love it, and it is such a positive program for them.
Neutra will be handing out almost 60 Deployment Kits to students next week to help them prepare for their parents’ upcoming deployments.
In addition to using the Comfort Crew’s Deployment Kits, Akers School’s Anchored4Life club is also using its Welcome Kits for new students and Together Again Kits for students whose parents are returning from deployment. Team leaders are asked to reach out to students in every classroom and ask them to take on roles as crew members, whose job it is to buddy up with new students, show them around campus, and help introduce them to others. So far this year, their club has reached out to 70 students who are either new to the school or at some phase of the deployment cycle.
“Team leaders at both schools will be presented with additional areas of Anchored4Life they can implement during training at future meetings. They can review how things are going and decide if and when they are able to expand,” said NASL School Liaison Officer Margaret Gladders.
Information about signing up for Anchored4Life and Deployment Clubs can be obtained by contacting commands, command ombudsman, or via command pre-deployment meetings. Additional information can be acquired by emailing the School Liaison Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our goal is keeping the parent connected with the child, and the first step is signing them up,” said Gladders.
The program is paid for by the U.S. Navy and United Services Organization and is no cost to the schools aboard NASL.