Five Rivers MetroParks provides variety of educational programs

Five Rivers MetroParks provides educational programming that seeks to make learning fun.

“Our programs encourage youth, and sometimes families as a whole, to step outside of their comfort zone through a variety of different opportunities, such as going on a night hike, exploring a creek, or even holding a crawdad or spider,” said MetroParks Education Specialist Erin Rowekamp. “Life begins at the edge of our comfort zones. And as a result, when youth participants decide to challenge a fear and step out of their comfort zone, they create powerful memories and develop a new level of self-confidence.”

Summer is the ideal time to get young adventure seekers outside to help reduce the summer learning loss referred to as the “summer slide.” A recent national study that followed students across five summers between grades 1 and 6 found that 52 percent of the students experienced learning loss in all five summers. The study, published in the American Educational Research Journal, reported that students lost an average of 39 percent of their total school year gains during each summer.

However, with the great outdoors as their classroom, young learners can experience a variety of benefits. Rowekamp shares how MetroParks programs can make a difference.

Q: How do MetroParks programs help reduce the “summer slide?”

A: MetroParks offers programs year-round, that help to bolster kids’ formal education, but in the summer when formal education is on hold, these programs can keep kids engaged and keep them working to challenge themselves in new ways. In these programs youth are told where to look, not what to see, thus encouraging them to make their own observations and use critical thinking as they learn through experience.

Q: Why are programs like this so important for families?

A: Families are spending less and less quality time together, where all members are actively present and engaged. These programs allow families to grow and learn together while discovering that nature is a great place to spend time together as a family. Additionally, programming is offered at a variety of different MetroParks and locations within MetroParks. This gives families the opportunity to explore new places that they can come back to and continue to explore as a family.

Q: In addition to helping prevent learning loss, what are some other benefits of the MetroParks kids’ programs?

A: Spending time in nature is critical for keeping kids’ minds and bodies engaged. Kids that spend time in nature are happier, healthier and smarter. Just a small sample of the benefits that time spent in nature can provide are improved concentration and decreasing distractibility, even in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), improved fine motor skills and coordination, reduced anger and improved mood, decreased stress and anxiety along with a wide range of other benefits.

Q: How important is it to make the programs fun, not just educational?

A: MetroParks programming is about so much more than just remembering facts. Making the programs fun is critical. Participants are going to take much more away from the experience and form positive memorable experiences in nature if they are having fun. This personal connection is what continues to spark the participants’ interest.

While there is a full slate of structured summer programming, families can also enjoy the MetroParks Nature Play Spaces on their own time. Nature play areas are located in Englewood, Possum Creek, Hills & Dales, Wesleyan, and Sugarcreek MetroParks with a new play area opening at Cox Arboretum MetroPark this summer. These interactive spaces have been created with natural elements that encourage children to explore unconstructed play in nature.

Education and enjoyment

The following list contains some of the upcoming MetroParks programs. For a complete list of programs, more information about Conservation Kids and Conservation Leaders and event registration, visit

Morning Chores

When: Saturday, July 1, 8:30-9:30 a.m.

Where: Carriage Hill MetroPark, 7800 Shull Rd., Huber Heights. Meet at the front gate of the farm.

What: Join a farm staff member to experience a typical workday for a farm hand. Participants will help with a variety of historic chores.

Who: Ages 8-12

More: Cost $5. Registration is required.

Wonderful Fireflies

When: Thursday, July 6, 8:30-9:45 p.m.

Where: Englewood MetroPark, 4361 W. National Rd., Dayton

What: Meet a giant talking firefly who will explain about his life before children are encouraged to capture, observe and then release the fireflies that make this park their home. Firefly exploration tools will be shared as supplies allow.

Who: All ages

More: Free program. Weather dependent. Registration requested and walk-ins welcome.

Children’s Garden Wonders: Edible Plants

When: Wednesday, July 19, 10-10:45 a.m.

Where: Wegerzyn Gardens, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton

Age: All ages

What: Explore Skeeter’s Garden with raised beds full of produce and flowers. Learn about gardening, composting and the importance of insects to a growing garden.

Who: All ages

More: Cost $3. Registration required. Weather dependent.

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