“All right, friends. Show us you’re ready to learn,” teacher and UCF environmental sustainability graduate student Nadeska Concha says to her students every Friday morning, as she prepares to demonstrate the process of pollination and its importance.
Concha is an instructor at UCF’s Creative School for Children, a learning facility “dedicated to creating an educational environment that provides opportunities for children to discover, explore, grow, and develop to their own unique potential,” according to the school’s mission statement.
“In order to become lifelong learners, young children need to be provided with concrete meaningful experiences to help them develop a positive self-esteem, skills in problem solving, creative thinking, self-reliance, and interpersonal communications.”
Located on-campus just north of UCF’s leisure pool, the school is providing new concrete, hands-on experiences with its new garden area, where the 3-5 year-old children now embrace the outdoors daily and learn the processes of our ecosystem.
Concha, or Miss Nadeska, begins her 45-minute pollination lesson this week by reading Elle McGuinness’s children’s book Bee and Me to the Early Experience 3 (EE2) class, reassuring students that bees help our environment as they “transfer pollen back to flowers in order for the plant to grow, reproduce, and form seeds, nuts, or fruits,” according to The Guardian newspaper.
“Bees are important to flowers,” Concha said. “We don’t need to be scared.”
Next, she draws flowers on an orange poster board where the students stick pollen (flour) onto the plants. The children role-play as either bees or butterflies to show how there is nothing to be afraid of.
The students “buzz” and play around the garden soaking in all of the informative fun.
“More pollen please,” the children plea in unison.
Finally, Miss Nadeska shows students the garden area’s blossoming papaya tree, which came about from pollination.
“The students’ minds are so open,” sophomore elementary education major and Creative School volunteer Ashley Kovarik said. “Their minds are sponges, and they are a joy to work with.”
Sophomore business major Brandon Calma volunteer echoes Kovarik’s sentiment. “I love the kids,” he said. “I am so pleased they are eating up our new outdoor lessons we implemented this semester.”
The Creative School for Children is a licensed child care and pre-kindergarten school with 140 students enrolled. The children of UCF students, UCF faculty and alumni are given first priority for enrollment, and any available seats go to children of surrounding Orlando communities.
“Every 4 year old child has the right to free pre-k,” director Amy Hesse said. With 15-20 students per class, the school’s government funded V-PK grants children a safe, happy, and diverse learning place.
“We are a melting pot here as a lot of UCF’s international students’ children are enrolled at the creative school,” Hesse added. “We have had students from over 60 countries including Russia, Korea, China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.”
The school’s fearless leader expresses her excitement about the facility’s newest garden addition.
“I have been the director here for 2 and a half years, and I am so proud of the progress we’ve made,” she adds. “One year ago, the outside area was a sandbox, and now we are as green as can be.”
Sidebar: UCF’s Creative School for Children is looking for new volunteers to help the children reconnect with nature in their “Nature Explore Workshop” on Saturday, April 9 from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. with a lunch break. If interested, students can visit firstname.lastname@example.org, call 402-467-6112, or call the Creative School’s direct number at 407-823-2726 for more information.