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Conservatory and Head Start Collaboration Helps Young Minds Bloom

Can you think of something that starts high and ends low, is a food-making machine and can be seen outside your window in every color of the rainbow throughout the autumn? Read on to see if your guess is correct (and to learn more about how the Conservatory is engaging young minds with brain-tickling questions like these)!

If you’re anything like the little girl at a recent Head Start Discovery classroom visit who yelled out the right answer, you already know that the colorful, food-making machine that drops in autumn is “A LEAF!”

Conservatory Early Childhood Educator Becky Schedler posed this riddle to a cheerful room of smiling young faces during her November visit to St. Agnes, a child development Head Start center which prepares income-eligible preschool children and their families for Kindergarten.

Children participating in the hands-on learning of Head Start Discovery 

Thanks to the Conservatory visits, more than one hundred children across ten Head Start sites all over the city got to examine the changing leaves, learn about the seasons, gain new vocabulary words like “chlorophyll” and “conservatory” and move and shake their arms like the branches of a tree during these fun on-site lessons. In December, they’ll learn about winter, hibernation, and how water turns to ice. In 2023, they’ll continue their seasonal learning by planting and nurturing seeds that grow into plants that they can then take home. 

Schedler, who has been with the Conservatory for nine years and was previously a preschool director, will be leading a total of six sessions at each center throughout the autumn, winter, and spring. Some of the children she’ll teach have already been on-site at the Conservatory this year by attending the Ready to Read school year kickoff event which the Conservatory hosted in collaboration with Head Start on September 28. Hundreds of children and families visited for free, enjoying a fun evening of books, resources, time in nature–and getting a hug from Curious George, too! 


A hug from Curious George during the Ready to Read event

Schedler and the Community Outreach and Education team plan to welcome additional Head Start children for two free field trips throughout the school year that connect concepts introduced in the classroom with experiences in the natural world. “Children learn differently than us,” Schedler explained. “Children don’t learn by a lot of blah blah blah,” she laughed. “They learn by experience and their senses. Going through the Rainforest Biome, they learn by what they see and smell.”

Schedler designs the classroom lessons to mimic and extend experiences that children will have on-site at the Conservatory. Touching leaves to compare their colors and sizes builds critical thinking skills and introduces basic math concepts using natural materials, embedding learning into a fun experience that kids don’t even realize is a lesson. Schedler thoughtfully organizes each experience to align with Ohio Early Learning and Development Standards, always aiming to help children develop social skills, emotional regulation, motor skills, language, and explore effective strategies to learn. 

“All I’m doing is opening a little door,” said Schedler. “But hopefully when they go home tonight they’ll look at that tree in their yard.” Schedler feels that her job is all about “building exposure and appreciation” that helps “kids make connections” between their lives and nature. 

The Conservatory is grateful to program supporters PNC Grow Up Great, Columbus Kiwanis Foundation and Ohio Children’s Foundation for making Schedler’s work and the impact of the Community Outreach and Education team possible. 

Children shaking their arms like branches of a tree during Head Start Discovery

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