WEAVE Shelter Offers Kids a Place to Explore Nature

Queenie Wong
Dec. 1, 2010

Behind a classroom where posters remind students they have the right to be a kid, a new outdoor space at a local women’s shelter is allowing children of domestic violence survivors to find solace with nature.

In the music and movement area, they can perform on a wooden stage, play the xylophone, rainmakers and drums. In the garden and dirt area, shovels and rakes are available to plant crops. The kids can sit on tree stumps in the messy materials area.

It’s something the women who enter WEAVE’s safehouse program rarely get to watch – their children playing outdoors without fear.

“Other than a very shabby looking playground we had, we really had not incorporated being outside a lot,” said Beth Hassett, the nonprofit’s executive director. “This will be a really great opportunity for the kids.”

WEAVE, which serves domestic violence survivors and their families in Sacramento County, began working with the cosmetics company Mary Kay Inc. and its charitable foundation in September. By Tuesday morning, children dressed as a tomato, chicken, pea and other vegetables were ready to play in what’s called a nature-explore classroom.

As part of the classroom’s dedication ceremony, children of WEAVE’s staff offered a tour of the normally undisclosed outdoor classroom. A representative from the cosmetics company awarded an additional $20,000 to the organization.

Andrea Koerber, a teacher from the Community Collaborative Charter School, was among more than a dozen supporters at the nature-explore classroom. Koerber teaches basic subjects such as math, reading and science to the 75 children who stay at the domestic violence shelter every year.

She said that teaching outdoors will help students learn these subjects in a more creative way. On the wooden stage, students can present their stories and essays. They can learn about adjectives by describing a leaf or how to count by using tree cookies, she said.

“It’s going to give them a place where they can express themselves,” Koerber said. “It’s not sitting in a classroom all day at the desk.”

She noted that many of the children who enter the safehouse have a lot of pent-up emotion. “It’s just a place where all of that inside stress just melts away,” she said. “It’s just quiet, and a lot of them haven’t experienced that.”

WEAVE’s Safehouse is the first women’s shelter in Sacramento to receive a nature- explore classroom. The cosmetics company started partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation and the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation in 2009 to build the classrooms.

For Shonquinta Jones, a 32-year-old domestic abuse survivor, dealing with the pain early on is a way to break the cycle of domestic abuse she repeated. Jones said she was in an abusive relationship for eight years and during that time her three children were exposed to profanity and tantrums.

Her daughter began a 12-week counseling program with WEAVE six years ago, and through art she was finally able to heal.

“I think it will help them process the pain and hurt they’re feeling in a safe environment; that way that cycle can be broken,” Jones said.

Source: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/12/01/3223464/weave-shelter-offers-kids-a-place.html#ixzz16uhxU5xE