The summer park programs in two local townships are underway, providing elementary-age children the opportunity to play and socialize while they’re off of school.
Both the programs at Wright and Fairview townships are similar. Parents can drop their children off each weekday and they’ll get an opportunity to play with classmates and others outdoors, enjoying the summer weather and time away from video screens.
At the Wright Township Municipal Park, about 25 children so far have been gathering each weekday from 10 a. m. to 2 p. m. Under the guidance of several aides, the children engage in games and sports, arts and crafts, and have lots of free time on the township’s large playground.
Jessica Prebola, who was an aide at the Wright Township program last year, is serving as director this year. What sets the Wright program aside from Fairview is its lack of structure.
Prebola related that, rather than organizing a set schedule of happenings, she allows the children attending to guide the aides in what activities they’d like to participate in each day. So far, she said, it’s been going well.
On a recent sunny afternoon, a few dozen children were scattered on the Wright Township playground, surrounded by aides in bright blue t-shirts. Some were swinging and sliding and a small group was laughing in a circle, playing a catch game with a large turquoise ball.
Prebola got involved with the park program because of her interest in working with children. She attends King’s College, studying early childhood education and special education. That line of work piqued her interest in high school, she said, when she taught in a peer tutoring program for children in a life-skills class.
“It was a lot of fun,” she added. “I liked working with the kids.”
What she also enjoys is spending her summer working with children at the park. “Some days we go over to Mountain Freeze,” she said of the ice cream shop across the street from the municipal park. “We just go with the flow here and have fun.”
In addition to a large playground, Wright Township has baseball and soccer fields, basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, as well as nature trails and a splash pad to keep cool.
Wright Township’s program runs until July 28. Prebola is planning “color wars” for the last week, where the children will be split into color-coded teams to compete for prizes.
In Fairview Township, the park program is run by two women who also have an interest in children’s education. Alexandria Briggs-Reichart and Leigh Anne Machowski, both teachers, are in their third year working with Fairview kids at Memorial park.
“We’re looking forward to another great summer,” noted Briggs-Reichart, Fairview’s program director, who currently teaches at East Stroudsburg High School. Machowski noted the same; she is the program’s assistant director and the Mountain Top native teaches middle school in Reading.
About 30 children have signed up for Fairview’s program, and they are organized in groups by age and interest. Each day, the children rotate activity stations, from arts and crafts to sports to playground and swimming time in the creek.
On a recent afternoon, a small group of children sat at a picnic table, all quiet in concentration as they meticulously spread puff paint on drawings they crafted. Counselors, identified by bright pink t-shirts, helped and encouraged the small artists.
Nearby, two other groups of kids laughed and played on new swings and playground equipment, installed just before the program’s opening and paid for by grant money obtained by the township.
Each week at Memorial Park, activities are determined by theme. For “mad scientist” week, the children will make their own creations, from sidewalk chalk to ice cream. For “Disney” week, games and crafts surround different Disney characters and, one of the days, the children will be bussed to see the latest Disney movie in Wilkes-Barre.
Other themes include the beach, wildlife exploration, gardening, and “upside down” week, where games are played backwards, children dress silly, and food like blue French fries and purple ketchup is served.
The Fairview park program, which runs daily from 10 a. m. to 4 p. m., concludes the week of Aug. 18. That week will have a camping theme and will end with the park’s annual campout, where children are invited to stay all night, sleeping in tents. Parents can still sign their children
up for both the Wright and Fairview programs, by simply attending the programs during open hours.
For more call on the programs all Wright Twp. at 474-9067 or Fairview Township at 474-9676.