The Family YMCA’s iCARE programs are about letting kids play outside and get dirty while helping them learn about and appreciate the great outdoors.
A few years ago, the Y adopted an internal philosophy of sustainability called “iCARE” – a philosophy that engaged youth to think about their impact on the earth.
At the same time that the Y’s national iCARE philosophy was taking form, parents needed a Wednesday-only program here in Los Alamos. We created a unique program to fill parent needs that would also share our global view of social responsibility.
Another parent told us she wanted her child to be outdoors playing all summer; she gathered requests and needs from other like-minded parents. We expanded iCARE into a summer-long program for children, and we staffed it with environmental educators who could help kids learn while they enjoyed themselves playing.
Every kid has a different ideal way to spend a summer. Sometimes summer is about taking on that adventure that the school year never had time for – whether reading a new book, learning a new artistic form of expression, honing a particular sports skill, or exploring the beckoning backyard woodland (including building a few forts, mud pies, or exploring trails.) Sometimes summer is all about getting lost in the shapes of the clouds or sitting on a stream bank with your toes in the water, daydreaming …
The Y’s iCARE programs offer adventurous, exploratory, curiosity-encouraging experiences that engage and connect kids to new ideas, to our community, and to our wider ecological systems. With a staff-to-participant ratio of 1:7 that caters to high-quality guidance, activity facilitation, and motivational supervision while the kids are out exploring, we offer three different iCARE programs throughout the summer.
iCARE Adventures runs weekly/monthly June through July, and iCARE Camp is offered Aug. 5-9. We are introducing a new themed program, iCARE About Gardening, which will be offered the two days (Aug. 12-13) right before school begins in the fall.
Next fall the Y will be continuing the iCARE program on Wednesday afternoons in partnership with Pajarito Environmental Education Center PEEC.
A typical day of the summer with iCARE Adventures starts at Mountain Elementary School, where from 7:30-9 a.m., the kids might participate in gardening activities or games to start their day.
After circle time and group check-in at 9 a.m., the group heads out via local transportation or by foot to a nearby canyon, trail, or other outdoor location to set up camp for the day – where the kids get to play and explore until it is time to return to Mountain School by 4 p.m., where they will have a chance to process the day’s experiences and learning through recycled art projects, games, gardening, or other group/individual reflection activities.
These reflection activities run 4-5:30 p.m. this is also pick-up time. Parents/guardians are invited to participate in any of these activities, and there will be special themed days and guest visitors throughout the summer.
Registration is open now at the Y; the registration drive (registration fees waived for all summer and fall after-school programs) runs through April 30.