During my tenure on the now-defunct Gig Harbor Boys & Girls Club board of directors, a staff member resigned to form a very special preschool called Curious by Nature. It was set up in the lower floor of the club but was independent. I covered its promising, innovative inception.
This past April, under the auspices of the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, I was invited to attend a dinner party at The Green Gig to help launch the Stewards Scholarship Fund. Not having a clue what I was getting into, I found the place crowded with effusive, happy folks, several of whom were old friends and some of whom are new friends. All of them are caring, involved citizens.
“On Earth Day 2013, over 80 community members joined to help kick off ‘A Legacy of Learning’ event, the new Stewards Scholarship Fund, which will provide early learning tuition support to area families in need,” foundation president Dr. Julie Ann Gustanski subsequently explained.
My kind of people!
Since then, I’ve attended the grand opening of Curious by Nature School in its new quarters off Wollochett Drive near Mallard’s Landing in Gig Harbor. What a blast!
Where at first there was only one lonely youngster attending well after the declared opening time, the facility suddenly was awash with truly curious kids. You could see it in their eyes.
During the past few months, students, their families and teachers have joined in community events such as the Key Peninsula Livable Community Fair, Gig Harbor Street Scramble and the Maritime Gig Festival Parade. It was a presence at the annual KeyFest Fair last weekend, hosted a booth at the Family FunFest in Sehmel Homestead Park on Saturday and will be at the Gig Harbor Summer Arts Festival this weekend. Come Sept. 21, it will unveil its Great Salmon Community Art Project at the Donkey Creek Chum Festival.
As more children spend less time outside, at Curious by Nature, not only do children explore outside every day, rain or shine, they experience a one-of-a-kind, nature-based curriculum that provides daily opportunities to learn the seasons, plants, animals, weather, ecosystems, habitat, people and cultures. The school also focuses on the whole child.
“Curiosity is part of childhood,” Gustanski said.
Preschooler Sierra Bierman said: “I love to write in my journal about the things I see outside.”
Keeler Kerrick loves going to school.
“My favorite part is playing outside with my friends,” Kerrick said.
August Schaumberg, who will move to pre-kindergarten this fall, loves having circle time and going to Grasshopper Hill.
And Seijun Yamasaki loves doing projects with Miss Savina and playing outside on the trail.
“A child’s quality of life and contributions a child will make to society as an adult both stem from the first few years of life,” Gustanski said. “Quality early learning education helps close the achievement gap and level the playing field, especially for children at greatest risk.”
School board member Kathryn Wilson, whose son attends the school, agreed.
“Studies show that children who have frequent significant and meaningful experiences with nature, especially early in life, not only improve physical and psychological well-being, but are also far more likely to make healthier life choices for the rest of their lives,” Wilson said.
Colin Kinerk, 6, likes school, “because we go on lots of adventures.”
Student Gwenna Lustig added, “I love learning, lunch bunch and playing outside with my friends.”
Aslan Struthers agreed: “I love that we get to go outside to play every day.”
A six-week summer camp runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday and opened July 8.
“Each week has a different theme that will carry though in the games we play, the adventures we take, the things we learn, the food we make, and the crafts we will do,” Gustanski said. “Themes include Pirates and Pixies, Nature’s Market, Mad Science, Nature’s Art, Something Fishy and Northwest Native Traditions.”
There is limited availability in the remaining camps, which will run through Aug. 15. Summer camp fees are $120 per week.
For details or registration forms, call 253-514-6338, visit www.gigharborfoundation.org/gghf-curious-by-nature-school or email email@example.com.Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at hmcmnp1000@ centurytel.net.