iCare Wednesdays moving to PEEC

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Education > Program focuses in on ecology and sustainability

By Tris DeRoma

It’s no accident that the Pajarito Environmental Education Center will be hosting the YMCA’s “iCare Wednesdays” program starting this August. The program teaches kids about the outdoors and recycling, and features field trips that give kids hands-on experiences in ecology as well as arts and crafts.

But that was hard to do in the program’s old space, where it took up half the gym and everyone felt a little cramped. Now, kids in the program will have a better space to learn.

“Our mission is to enrich people’s lives by strengthening their connection to our canyons, mesas, mountains and skies, said Katherine Watson, the PEEC’s executive director, adding that the program really fits in with the center’s ideals.

“The iCare program really tries to gets kids outside for unstructured play in nature, to explore all the trails and the canyons and all the other great outdoor resources that Los Alamos has to offer, she said.”

According to the Los Alamos YMCA’s community programs director, Sylvan Argo, “iCare” is a philosophy that the YMCA adopted in the early 2000s to make children more aware of nature and the environment.

“Our Y really adopted it as a full-on program,” she said. “Because of our location, and because of the kind of town this is, we had the kind of staff that was interested to create a focus of sustainable living within a program.”
Argo said Wednesday seemed like a logical choice.

“There was a demand for Wednesday only care and Wednesday was a full afternoon program so that was the perfect amount of time to take them out on a hike,” she said.

According to YMCA staffer Chris McLaughlin, the YMCA will also be having an iCare Camp starting Aug. 5-9.

It will be much like the Wednesday program, where the youth will be able to go outside, play environmentally-themed games, learn about organic gardening and go on field trips.

“The idea is that they will be involved in a program where they can experience nature. It also focuses on sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint,” McLaughlin said, adding that kids will also learn about alternative forms of transportation and recycling in the iCare Wednesdays program.

“It’s much like the summer camp, but it’s a year-long program,” she said.

To sign up for iCare, go to the Los Alamos YMCA’s website. Look for the “For Youth Development” menu at the top of the page and then click on the “iCare” link. More information may also be obtained by calling 662-3100.