As we close out 2022, we are honoring our relationship with the Frederick County Head Start program. Nine years ago, back in January 2014, we announced our new partnership with the following message on our blog:
We are so very excited to share with you the announcement of a fantastic new partnership between ThorpeWood and the Head Start program for Frederick County. Over the course of 11 weeks, with one week off for Easter, ThorpeWood will welcome over their youth – ages three and four – to come to ThorpeWood and benefit from the glorious natural opportunities ThorpeWood has to offer.
After the first preschoolers visited the farm, we were beyond delighted and, again, posted about it on the blog:
Well, we are pleased to tell you that it has begun! We welcomed the first Head Start children up to the mountain last week! Words fail in the effort to tell you how exciting this is for us and how much it means to be connecting with small children in such a meaningful way.
Words may fail, but this picture captures it pretty well:
It is hard to tell who is more excited in this picture – the children or Sam! Being of service in this way is something everyone here at ThorpeWood is so very passionate about.
While the focus of the Head Start program is on school readiness, the exposure to different learning experiences – both inside and outside of a classroom setting, and in our case, equine assisted learning – helps to establish within these wonderful young children a solid foundation for their approach to learning in a lifelong way. Powerful stuff.
Over the years that have followed, we have kept the blog up to date as we morphed the program to constantly increase the amount of time the kids spent with us at the farm. In the many years since the start of our partnership, every one of our seasons revolved around the Head Start students (click on the italicized words to dive deeper into these topics). The spring and fall were jam-packed with multiple visits from each of the classrooms – exploration, animal time, nature art projects, and so much more. The summer focused in on a smaller number of kids, who came to the farm for longer and more frequent days. The cold winters flipped the tables on us – and we and our animals would go to the ‘friends’ down in Frederick, Walkersville, Emmitsburg, and more. When we couldn’t make it often enough to satisfy us, we would write books, send postcards, deliver farm trunks, and craft videos for the ‘friends’ to watch.
It has been 9 beautiful years of continual support. However, with pre-k opening up in the local elementary schools, the Head Start population is skewing younger. After giving it a try for over a year, we, unfortunately, have found that our outdoor programs are a bit too much for the three-year-olds. They quite simply are not ready for the big outings and therefore cannot fully absorb all ThorpeWood has to offer. And so, we are now in the process of transforming our programs to more effectively make use of our acreage, animals, and expertise. But don’t think for one minute that we are giving up this beautiful partnership! We are simply scaling back a bit, and putting a larger focus on Head Start staff wellness iniatives and larger-scale family engagement outings. We hope that providing the ThorpeWood experience to the Head Start caregivers (both teachers and parents), we will be able to fulfil our mission of nurthuring therapeutic relationships with the natural world more effectively.
With that, a moment of apprciation and gratitude for our 9 year relationship with Head Start.
Thank you to all who made it possible. We will be seeing you again soon!