Nature Lady teaches Mint Hill children American Heritage

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On Wednesday, June 28, Sandi McGarrah, better known as “The Nature Lady” taught children about our American Heritage at the Mint Hill Library.

As children entered the Community Room, McGarrah encouraged them to explore the room, touching and playing with the items she had set out at five different centers. As she called students to the front of the room to sit on the floor, McGarrah asked students what they noticed about the items scattered around the room, and many students remarked that they were “old.”

McGarrah used the children’s observation to introduce them to the idea of pioneers. She encouraged the children to think of a pioneer simply as someone who discovers something new and shares it with other people. “There are always pioneers,” she said. “It’s not just something from long ago.” McGarrah talked about astronauts and oceanic explorers as “pioneers of 2017.”

McGarrah’s presentation focused on helping children to understand one particular type of pioneer: the ones who settled our country. McGarrah led children around the room to the different centers she had set up using the items to teach them about the way those early pioneers lived their lives.

“Kids are very much out of touch with the pioneers,” said McGarrah, “which is kind of sad. It’s our history!”

At the first table, McGarrah asked the children to pick up an object and guess what it is. McGarrah used the objects to discuss the pioneers’ way of life with the children and contrast it to our own. For example, a bellows led to discussion not only of stoking a fire but the idea of having a fire itself: how pioneers would use it to warm their home and cook their food. A ladle made from a gourd inspired discussion about the pioneers’ resourcefulness, and how they would use gourds to create things we might buy at the store today.

The second table housed materials used for candle and soap-making. As McGarrah discussed the process of making soap and candles, she encouraged students to touch and smell the materials, using all their senses to explore.

The third table contained games. McGarrah asked the children what kind of games they were finding, and together they played with a whirligig, a spinning top made from a large seed and a puzzle made from two nails. At the fourth table, the students got to weave and twist wool into yarn. Weaving was 7-year-old Kaitlyn’s favorite part. She used straw to weave a decorative bow for her hair.

One of the activities children explored through was weaving.

The fifth table focused on what the pioneers used to write. McGarrah mashed blueberries and had the children use feather quills and blueberry ink to write on scraps of paper. They also used chalk to write on slate. Set on the fifth table were also corn cobs, an item early pioneers used not only for decoration but for brushing and curling hair, cleaning teeth, erasing a slate board, and even as toilet paper!

Children had an opportunity to write using a feather quill and mashed blueberries.

After leading students through all of the centers, the children had an opportunity to explore and play on their own with the help of The Nature Lady.

“I’ve done this for about twenty-five years,” said McGarrah, who describes herself as a “traveling naturalist” and also conducts hands-on-programs centered around birds, insects, geology, the rainforest, and the weather. “Just to try to help children understand the basics of how we live – that’s what I enjoy doing!”

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