The first day of a new school year is always an exciting time at Willow Bend. During the summers, in addition to running our summer programs and tours, we also start prepping for the upcoming semester. Reviewing our materials, updating presentations and handouts, adding fun activities to field trips, enhancing in-class programs, and contacting schools to start scheduling visits.
During the last few days of summer you can always feel the anticipation at Willow Bend. We are excited to catch up with all of our teacher friends and we look forward to meeting new teachers and administrators. But we are especially eager to see all the students! One year older, one grade higher, some have switched schools, some might have a younger sibling at school now, and some are new to Flagstaff, Coconino County, or even Arizona. But they all know more, remember more, and want to do more. They always run up to us when they see us walking down the hallway at their school, and they ask with so much enthusiasm “Willow Bend, are you coming into our class today? Are we going on a field trip? Are you coming to teach us…show us something…do an activity…?”.
There is nothing more rewarding than teaching children and guiding them in their journey learning about the natural world. Seeing the wonder in their eyes and the huge smiles on their faces when we show animal tracks, or look through binoculars, or identify macro-invertebrates at the pond, or when they see the petroglyphs at Picture Canyon for the first time. We love the work we do. We love getting students outside. We love supporting teachers by providing hands on outdoor STEM activities and lesson plans. We love seeing families at our center learning and exploring together.
But this first day of school feels a little different. The last few months have been challenging for everyone at Willow Bend as well. However, even though we won’t walk down the hallways today, even though we won’t step into the teacher’s lounge and catch up, we are as excited and ready for the new semester as we ever have been. We are committed to teach students and support teachers by providing environmentally focused materials that are both engaging and informative even though they will be delivered virtually. At first we thought it couldn’t be done. But our staff, board, and volunteers have been working hard these past few months to adjust and modify our programs and we are proud and excited to share these newly finished products.
And today, even though it’s not quite like any other “first day” we have been through before, we are here and as ready as always. We are looking forward to providing high quality standard aligned placed based environmentally focused programs. We created fun and engaging lessons coupled with activities that connect students to the natural world that is right outside their window. We are well prepared to assist teachers who want to incorporate environmentally focused programs into their classes.
We are here to support you – teachers, administrators, students, and families – at every twist, turn, and step of this journey.
Here is to a (challenging, rewarding, exciting, hectic, wonderful) new school year!
With appreciation and service,
Moran Henn, Executive Director