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  • Writer's pictureSherry Bruck

HOPE’S STEAM Summer Program Visits Ward Acres Park

July 2022

Thanks to an ARPA grant from the City of New Rochelle, HOPE’s STEAM Summer Program at Parkside Place enjoyed a fun-filled afternoon of activities at Ward Acres Park on July 27. The field trip- coordinated by Deputy Mayor/District 5 Council Member Sara Kaye with HOPE, the New Rochelle Department of Parks and Recreation and the Ward Acres Conservancy—included an educational hike, a watershed stewardship program with a series of hands-on experiences, and a walkthrough of the Ward Acres Community Garden. This special outing for nearly two dozen youth in grades 3-8 was part of HOPE’s new Summer STEAM program, an enrichment curriculum that exposes children to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics as access points for guiding inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking.

The trip was divided into three parts: The Ward Acres Conservancy began the day by leading the participants on a hike along former carriage trails that served the horse farm that once operated on the premises before it was turned into a park, teaching them the history of the buildings and the impact of invasive and non-native plant species.

Activity number two was the Watershed Stewardship Program sponsored by New York Sea Grant and Long Island Sound Study. The group took part in making a mural of the Long Island Sound as well as making a model of a watershed to understand how Ward Acres, and the surrounding communities, are connected to Long Island Sound and can impact the water quality.

The day concluded with a visit to the Ward Acres Community Garden, where they learned about the benefits of organic gardening and witnessed a composting demo. The children planted seeds in growing pots and were able to take them home to watch their seedlings develop into fully grown vegetables or flowers.

HOPE Community Services is a local not-for-profit organization providing emergency food services, housing, children’s supportive programming and social services. The STEAM Summer Program at Parkside Place was made possible through the City’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. The field trip was done in partnership with the Ward Acres Conservancy, Long Island Sound Study, New York Sea Grant, and Friends of New Rochelle Parks.

Deputy Mayor Sara Kaye said, “I am thrilled HOPE Community Services is able to launch this new program with funding approved by the City Council. By providing a creative and engaging STEAM curriculum, the program will help achieve educational equity and address the learning losses that were caused by the pandemic. The nature field trip to Ward Acres Park was a wonderful opportunity to spark curiosity and make learning more tangible and fun. It is so important that we work to connect children to the natural spaces that are freely available in our community so that they can experience the joy and wonder of nature and gain exposure to outdoor activities, like hiking and gardening, that provide mental and physical health benefits.” “Finding a passion is so important for our youth.” said HOPE Executive Director Walter Ritz. “Igniting the spark that could inspire a lifetime of learning and exploration is an incredible possibility. This field trip to Ward Acres Park was a great way to expose these kids to the path where earth and science meet. If a few of these kids walk away with a curiosity about the way our planet works, then we have made an impact.”

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Vin Parise said, “We were thrilled to host HOPE’s STEAM Summer Program at Ward Acres Park this summer. With 62 beautiful acres that include the Ward Acres Community Garden and Paws Place Dog Park, this park offers residents and youngsters endless possibilities when it comes to experiencing nature, gardening, trails, wildlife and so much more.”

Additional quotes: Lillit Genovesi, Long Island Sound Study Outreach Coordinator: “Students are always excited to learn ways that they can take care of The Sound and all the marine wildlife that live there, including harbor seals, horseshoe crabs, nudibranchs and so much more! Through our hands-on STEM activities, students can see how our actions in the watershed can impact water quality downstream and how communities can work together to build a great future for our shared coastal resources.”

Joe Rogot, Co-President, Ward Acres Conservancy: “We were privileged to host a wonderfully inquisitive and curious group of 3-8 graders from the Hope Community Services summer enrichment program and look forward to many more visits by local school and community groups. The purpose of the Ward Acres Conservancy (WAC) is to restore and protect the ecological integrity of Ward Acres Park’s landscape and trail system, highlight its historical significance, re-envision and expand community usage with equal access for all. Providing youth the opportunity to explore and enjoy this very unique park also helps them understand the benefits and responsibilities of protecting and preserving this valuable resource."

“What better way to combat the skyrocketing cost of food these days than to have a family member who has a green thumb. These visiting students might just be those family members.”

ABOUT HOPE COMMUNITY SERVICES: Founded in 1984, HOPE Community Services has dedicated itself to the continued progress of our neighbors. As one of Westchester County’s largest provider of emergency food services, HOPE has grown into a full community services organization. Now, HOPE provides an array of critical services including housing for the homeless, child hunger initiatives, afterschool programming, camp, STEAM programming, and several outreach endeavors.

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