A grant from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area will support the development of writing skills and nature activities for the elementary-age children participating in the Children's After School Achievement (CASA) Program at Hope College during the coming summer and school year.
When CASA's six-week summer session begins on June
21, the program will introduce "Discovering Nature: The
Write Idea." The unit will blend field trips, service
projects, demonstrations by naturalists, the guidance of a
writer-in-residence, reading and classroom exercises to help
students develop writing skills and better understand the
natural world around them and their relationship to it.
"We want the children to realize the importance of
the environment and how it's intertwined with their own
lives and how it affects their lives, and we want them to
develop and improve their written expression skills," said
Bob Boersma, program director with CASA.
The blend of activities--coursework combined with
hands-on encounters--is intended to reinforce the idea that
the lessons being learned go beyond the time the students
spend in CASA's classrooms, according to Fonda Green,
executive director of CASA.
"We're tying in what the students are learning in
the curriculum with the writer-in-residence and the nature
trips and other activities," Green said. "We think the
combination will create a wonderful circle of experience."
CASA provides substance abuse prevention, cultural
awareness, academic and career experiences to approximately
100 at-risk first- through fifth-grade students. The
program is intended to improve the students' academic
performance and help them develop healthy, productive
lifestyles. CASA's students meet in the mornings during the
summer session, and twice weekly for two hours per session
throughout the school year.
The foundation has awarded CASA $5,650 for
"Discovering Nature." Activities this summer will include
field trips to the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids,
a nature walk at Ottawa County's Pigeon Creek Park and the
Farmer's Market in Holland. CASA has also ordered several
volumes in the "NatureScope" series produced by the National
Wildlife Federation for use in class. The writer-in-
residence will help the students to express their nature
experiences in writing.
Similar activities will continue during the school
year, with CASA linking with activities at the DeGraaf
Nature Center in Holland as well. Boersma is hoping to have
the students produce nature-themed materials such as
placemats or posters that would be suitable for display at
sites in the community such as area businesses.
Established by Marge Rivera in 1987, CASA was
originally administered by Latin Americans United for
Progress (LAUP) and housed at First United Methodist Church.
The program moved to the college in 1989, and is housed on
the ground level of Graves Hall. CASA also receives support
through the City of Holland and the Greater Holland Area
United Way, as well as from area businesses and individuals.