Winters Rotary partners with preschool program to bring literacy garden to life

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The Rotary Club of Winters and Winters Parent Nursery School have joined forces to create a literacy garden for children. While the project nears completion, it serves as a testament to the positive impact of good old-fashioned community service.

After receiving some land from the city in 2017, WPNS had to decide what to do with it. After extensive consideration – a collaboration with the Winters Rotary – it was decided that a literacy garden would be erected.

“The garden will be an area that WPNS students will be able to go to learn about nature, how to grow their own food and provide an environment outdoors where children will be able to relax, collect their thoughts and re-center themselves,” WPNS Teacher/Director Ciara Hapworth-Eldridge said. “With COVID-related guidelines, we’re looking to have more learning opportunities and less inside time. We are a play-based program where we look to support the whole child including social and emotional support in age-appropriate academic activities through play and experiences.”

Not only does the garden provide an environment for children to thrive in, it’s brimming with unique features that make it a play area unlike any other. This includes a teepee made out of black walnut sucker poles, garden beds and even a bug hotel.

“It’s a wonderful little area that’s a different atmosphere for the kids. We’ve used all organic materials that’ll give the kids a feeling of being in nature,” said Winters Rotarian Gar House. “It’s been a great experience for the Rotary. Building this is allowing us to have an outdoor project that’s for the community. It’s a total win-win.”

Months ago, the literacy garden was merely an idea of Hapworth-Eldridge and WPNS President Crystal Apilado. Now, with the help of House and Winters Rotary, the idea will come to fruition so current families and alumni families can enjoy the new space.

“Our rotating membership has brainstormed some of their favorite ideas for the past few years as we decided what to do with it. We’ve toured schools who are also part of the California Council of Parent Participation Nursery Schools and have taken many photos of our favorite things,” Apilado said. “Trying to find funding and deciding ‘who’ was going to build it has been challenging. It wasn’t until 2020 when we were inspired by another school’s book-themed garden that it clicked that is what we should do with the land.”

The garden beds will be seasonally based off of children’s books and flowers, vegetables and other plants that grow best during each season. Hand-milled benches have been created for students and adults to sit on while they read together in the garden area.

“It’s been amazing to work with this group. Rotary started coming to school in about March and volunteers would build fencing, lay bark, create the garden beds and hand-weave the teepee structure,” Hapworth-Eldridge said raving about the Winters Rotary. “It has been amazing to watch something I made with a computer program come to life before my eyes. While school was in session every morning, we got to see the latest development in the garden. It has been so much fun, and we are so grateful for the dream team of Rotarians that have been working on this project.”

Hapworth-Eldridge said that although the literacy garden is being utilized by their preschool program, they look forward to opening it up and sharing it with local youth and alumni for special community events throughout the year.

“We are hoping that we might be able to partner with other local gardening groups and nonprofits to help support our staff in making sure the garden continues to thrive as new families come and go,” Apilado said voicing optimism over local partnerships in the community. “WPNS is also looking to really expand upon and add more outdoor curriculum and opportunities. We consulted with a local outdoor school teacher on how to best develop an outdoor program and we were really inspired.”

After so much calamity in the recent years, the literacy garden will shine some hope on the future. Not only because of how much the children will benefit from it, but because it’s the result of community members helping each other thrive. However, it’s not surprising to see projects like this come to life, helping one’s own is just how Winters rolls.

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