Hudson Highlands Nature Museum Brings Popular ‘Knee High Naturalist’ Program to Newburgh



Great nature program for little kids

Great nature program for little kids

HHNM Program Director Emily Nestlerode leads the Knee High Naturalist program for Newburgh Residents at the Newburgh Public Library.  Photo by Joanna Marvel


With generous support from Hudson Valley Credit Union and the Malcolm Gordon Charitable Fund, the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum (HHNM) has been able to bring its popular Knee High Naturalists Program to the Newburgh Public Library on Tuesdays from 10am-10:45am, at no charge to Newburgh residents. This 8 week outdoor program will continue to run weekly through June 8.  


Knee High Naturalists is a seasonal program designed for children ages 2-4 as an introduction to nature and organized activities. Children attend with their caretaker, who supports them during class time. 


Though HHNM has been unable to restart the Knee High Naturalist program on-site since the pandemic began, it has been in existence for well over a decade (with plans to restart on-site in the near future).  No matter the location, the goals of the program are the same;  To provide an environment for children of similar ages/development to socialize, to introduce children to basic classroom behavior and expectations, to increase children's comfort level with the outdoors, nature, and animals, and to decrease barriers for caretakers when recreating or learning outside with children. 


According to Program Director Emily Nestlerode, “It always astonishes me to see the growth between week one and week eight, and it's most obvious when taking attendance. The first week, most kids aren't really sure what is going on or are too shy to speak up when they hear their name. By week eight, they are waving, yelling 'here!' and greeting all of their classmates with exuberance.”

 

Off-site at the Library, some modifications needed to be made to the layout of the program, while keeping the essence of the program fully intact. For example, Educators may have been able to set up feeders ahead of time to watch birds arrive and feed during class time

at the Nature Museum, they can now instead introduce birds commonly seen around the City of Newburgh and provide caretakers with a guided activity to find those birds on their way home after class and beyond. 


There is still an emphasis on getting bodies in motion, touching natural objects, and learning appropriate behavior in this setting. The grants have also allowed for the translation of program materials so that both English and Spanish versions may be provided in order to increase accessibility for caretakers who may be leading after-class activities. The Nature Museum is grateful to Hudson Valley Credit Union and the Malcolm Gordon Charitable Fund for enabling the ability to adapt the parameters of Knee High Naturalists for a new off-site environment,  and allowing for the program itself to evolve and grow. 




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