Institute faculty staff members Melodie Anderson-Smith, Pam Rowland, Beth Skroban, Lynn Teach and Doris Goldman visited the pond on the campus of Hooverville Elementary School to begin planning customized educational programs for Waynesboro Area School District school students grades K–5. The programs will be delivered to each school campus and held outdoors.

The Institute is excited about a new elementary school programming initiative, recently announced with the following press release:

A recent sponsorship donation will underwrite a new series of Institute at Renfrew school programs, delivered by Institute faculty members to each elementary school campus in the Waynesboro Area School District (WASD).

“To address pandemic concerns about bus transportation and to ease the way for families who may be suffering financial hardship, we are thrilled to announce that The Institute will provide customized 90-minute experiences for all K–5 grade students at Mowery, Fairview, Hooverville and Summitview elementary schools, delivered on site at each school,” said Tracy Holliday, The Institute’s executive director.

“Thanks to a gift from Institute benefactress Alma Oyer, these programs will be offered free of charge to all students,” Holliday said. “Mrs. Oyer’s bighearted care for children motivated her gift, which has been transformative for The Institute’s ability to serve the young people in our community. We are deeply grateful for Mrs. Oyer’s care for our mission and activities with youth.”

Education is the cornerstone of The Institute’s mission. The organization records 8,000–9,000 annual student visits during a typical year.

The new programs, customized for each grade level and for each elementary campus, will including such offerings as …games that help illustrate natural concepts in a fun way, explorations of the school yard using observation and scientific inquiry, activities that focus on a feature of the property, like the stream at Hooverville and the Nature Trail Area at Mowrey. Each school has something unique to explore.

“We continue to value and honor our partnership with Waynesboro Area School District (WASD) and look forward to serving district students with programs that educate, inspire and delight,” Holliday said.

Dr. Rita Sterner-Hine, WASD assistant superintendent, commented, “WASD was committed to reopening this fall but fully understood the limitations of COVID-19.  Although field trips are a valuable part of our learners’ education, we were focused on making in school learning a success.

“Our position was to hit ‘pause’ on field trips, but we are delighted that The Institute will bring the field trip experience to our schools. Our learners will truly benefit from this generous donation to bring Institute lessons for outdoor education to our elementary schools.”

All programs are delivered with full COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

“Institute programs allow learning to take place outdoors, where the likelihood of transmission is reduced,” Holliday said. “Additionally, experiences in nature are proven to reduce stress, and to increase our physical and emotional wellbeing. We believe that children and families need such experiences, now more than ever during this challenging time.”