This week the Partnership invited community members and volunteers on an Early Childhood Bus Tour, a three-hour event that invites participants to learn about our work through engagement. This event was one in a series of bus tours that we host, each having a different focus and set of goals. With National Volunteer Week recently behind us, we wanted to focus this bus tour on engagement and volunteerism by honoring our many volunteers and showcasing strategies for involvement at the Partnership.
It is impossible to feature every volunteer opportunity or every one of our community partners on a bus tour, thus, each tour looks very different. This makes for an exciting journey for participants!
Wednesday's Early Childhood Bus Tour was unique in that we kicked off the event by simulating a volunteer experience; we put our guests to work as soon as they arrived at the Partnership office! Moments after we greeted each bus tour attendee we asked that they join us around the table to build Transition to Kindergarten Blast-Off Kits. These kits require about five minutes of assembly each, but are produced in large quantities so that the Partnership can distribute them widely to young children entering kindergarten in Durham County. They include items such as crayons, shapes for building, a "Draw A Picture/Tell A Story" activity, an emotion identification game, and other critical pieces that are important for rising kindergartners.
After introductions and a welcome, participants loaded the bus as we headed out into the Durham community.
Destination A: The outdoor learning environment at Early Start Academy
Participants were able to walk through Early Start Academy's naturalized outdoor learning environment designed around best practice that stimulates young children’s play and contributes to healthy development – intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually and physically. These state-of-the-art outdoor classrooms have so many benefits, including connecting children to nature, but require extra attention and upkeep to maintain quality. Child care centers rely on volunteers to help with routine weeding, organization, clean-up, material donations, and more.
Destination B: Welcome Baby
Welcome Baby Family Resource Center, a funded program of the Partnership, offers an amazing variety of parent education and support services in Durham County. These include developmental newsletters and parenting workshops, the car seat safety program, multi-vitamin distribution, Cribs for Kids, and the Giving Closet.
Bus tour attendees had the opportunity to tour the Giving Closet and see many of the resources that Durham families utilize. Von Brown, Volunteer Coordinator at Welcome Baby, spoke to the need for volunteers within the agency that help accomplish all the great work being done.
Destination C: Readers as Leaders program, Primary Colors Early Learning Center
The final site we visited during the tour was Primary Colors Early Learning Center, a 5-star child care center in Durham that participates in the Partnership’s Readers as Leaders volunteer reading program. Monnie Griggs, Technical Assistance Director with Child Care Services Association, was able to inform bus tour attendees about why reading aloud to young children – even infants – matters so much. Children who are exposed to print-rich materials early on are able to build their language and vocabulary skills, gain knowledge about the world around them, and develop an interest in reading.
We also had the opportunity to listen in on a classroom story time and see just how excited young children get about reading.
All participants left the bus tour with a much deeper understanding of the Partnership's role in the early childhood world, and each person expressed interest in additional Partnership volunteer opportunities. If you are interested in helping us drive our mission forward, please contact Krissy Dunn, Operations Specialist at the Partnership. Krissy manages our volunteer program and can help folks navigate our different opportunities like: building kits, reading to children, donating items, visits to child care centers, joining a committee, and many more. She can be reached at email@example.com or 403-6960.