The need for quality child care that also adds an element of instruction is at all-time premium for area parents, as many are working while their children are learning virtually.
Horizons Outdoor Learning Center north of Harrisonburg is here to help. Thanks to additional funding from Harrisonburg City Public Schools, the organization is also able to offer scholarships for students who need it.
“It’s a neat partnership, and I’m glad the schools saw the value in having it,” said Diar Kaussler, business director for the organization.
Although the organization has been around for decades and has offered summer and after-school programs, it is now offering all-day camps for students and helping facilitate virtual learning as a service to the community, Kaussler said.
There are currently two different enrichment programs being offered — Camp Horizons and Horizons Edge. The latter focuses more on physical education and sports and is indoor/outdoor.
Camp Horizons is 100% outdoor and focuses on hands-on learning opportunities in nature, such as farm activities and gardening, and there is a curriculum around each component.
The program has about 35 to 40 students and is at least two days a week, although some students attend more frequently. In the morning students do their virtual learning online in a covered outdoor pavilion, and in the afternoon they have outdoor enrichment where they can play with other students.
Although the program has 40 kids some days, they learn and play in smaller pods and wear masks and socially distance, Kaussler said.
Most of the students in the program are Harrisonburg residents, but there are some from Rockingham County and one student coming from as far as West Virginia.
The students have been enjoying the outdoor enrichment program since it began last week.
“It’s been really sweet,” Kaussler said. “They are just so happy to have the space and the experience to learn.”