I have been volunteering as a Parent Mentor every Monday morning since September. It has been a great way to start my week off and has provided neat insight into my daughter’s experience in the program. Every morning after arrival the kids are greeted individually by name as they sit around the stump circle. Volume level and type of greeting is personalized for each kid’s needs and preferences. You can tell the kids are known and valued just by watching and participating in this small ritual. After this, we do a pledge that talks about the importance of being kind to animals, plants, others, and themselves. My 3.5 yr old has this pledge memorized and often recites it unprompted outside of program. It is a great way to introduce kindness and respect for self, others, and for the environment. We also review safety rules, and it is neat to see how the kids learn these so quickly and really take them to heart. After these morning rituals, the topic of the day is introduced and discussed a bit, allowing kids a chance to share things they may already know about or be interested in, then everyone packs up their stuff and walks over to the “classroom” (a nearby picnic shelter). The short walk over provides a nice opportunity to chat with the kids and observe things in line with the theme of the day or just anything interesting that we happen to pass. Once we arrive at the classroom, the kids set down their backpacks and participate in a group game. As the year has gone on, it has been neat to watch the kids mature in their understanding of how to play these types of games. Lately, they have really been enjoying variations of duck, duck, goose, and it has been so fun to watch them light up as they play. After group game, the class is divided into two or three groups to participate in crafts or activities in line with the theme of the week. Everyone has a chance to rotate through the activities across the three class days. It is neat to see which activities kids really get into and how their personalities shine through in this process. After this, it is time to use the bathroom, wash hands, and have snack time while listening to a story. This is often a busy time for me as a parent mentor as I am available to help open snacks though as the year has gone on, kids have gotten more proficient in this task and even started offering to help each other. Observing the kids develop their own community has been a neat element of volunteering in this capacity. It can really restore one’s hope for humanity to see these kids support one another. Once the story is over and the kids have packed up their lunchboxes and thrown away trash, it is everyone’s favorite time of the day, free play. This is another favorite time for me as it is so fun to watch the creativity of the kids come to life as they pretend to be cats, various family configurations, or replay variations of the activities we have done earlier in the day. I love when we are at the picnic shelter with the sandbox as the kids come up with some creative “food” creations to offer me. Finally, we usually end the day with some time to respond to a journal prompt where kids draw something related to what they experienced or learned that day and have a chance to participate in a “sit spot” where they simply observe nature using their eyes and ears then share anything they noticed. We then walk back to the stump circle for pick up. Truly, these three hours of my week are a highlight. This opportunity allows me to take a small break out of my otherwise busy life, practice being mindful, and enjoy nature while being reminded of what truly matters by the kids and amazing staff.