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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pre-schoolers learn more than math by giving

By Andy Gross
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Max Thompson, 3, packs cans of yams on Monday at Riverdale Nursery School and Family Center. The school’s food drive will send nourishment to a donation center in Yonkers.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Anais Boonswang, 3, and Sophia Solinas, 4, carefully count cans for a drive at the Riverdale Nursery School and Family Center.

Max Thompson and his classmates at Riverdale Nursery School and Family Center (RNSFC) were busy Monday sorting cans of yams they gathered as part of the school’s annual food drive.

“Do we have more cans of yams than we did corn?” Susan Smellin, the nursery school director, asked the students.

The answer from the four and five-year-olds was a booming yes. 

Indeed, there were 36 cans of yams and 26 of corn, and even more cans of cranberry sauce.

 Max, age 3, and two classmates correctly matched the cans of yams to a corresponding number on the ground, making a food donation part of an arithmetic lesson.

Other groups of three took turns counting collected items and placing them in boxes. 

Ms. Smellin said parents would deliver the boxed goods to a donation center in Yonkers two days before Thanksgiving.

“Part of our mission is to teach children they have a social responsibility,” Ms. Smelling said, in addition to making the youngsters aware of the environment and green projects.

The “Giving Trees,” the cornerstone of the Community Partnership program at the school, is a seasonal outreach program aimed at giving back to the community.

 In the past, the giving trees have involved a winter clothing collection and a spring book drive. 

Ms. Smellin explained that earlier this month, the school erected a giving tree decorated with leaves. Students then picked the leaves to determine which food item they and their parents would contribute to the school’s annual food drive. Items this year included canned goods, stuffing mix, and corn muffin mix. 

As a result, many of the students appeared to gain a firsthand understanding of Thanksgiving.

“We share things and food with people who don’t have enough,” said Sophia Solinsky, a 4-year-old Riverdale resident.

Lizzie Shapiro-Mosca riffed on that notion, saying, “we give thanks to other people and if you have more food, you can give it to them.”

Ms. Smellin said the school, which has 85 students in the nursery program and 25 in the toddler class, integrates special needs students in the student population. 

RNSFC, which is located at 3816 Waldo Ave., is a so-called green nursery school and part of the Green School Alliance.

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