McMurray learning center pairs kids with elementary mentors

Published Apr 3, 2013 at 10:45 am (Updated Apr 3, 2013 at 10:45 am)

Max Sutherland, 6, recently lost a bottom tooth, but the resulting gap in his mouth did not hinder his ability to respond that he was enjoying dyeing Easter eggs March 27 at the McMurray Child Care and Learning Center.

“It’s a good color,” Max said of the pale pink egg drying on a paper napkin in the child care center on E. McMurray Road.

Max just wanted to dye eggs and was oblivious to the unique blend of preschool children and a group of fifth-graders from the nearby McMurray Elementary School in the Peters Township School District.

Max was one of 21 child care students who, once a month, are partnered with the fifth-graders who volunteer their time after school. March, when there were nine fifth graders at the center, was dedicated to dyeing eggs, while in February the youngsters worked on a Valentine’s Day craft.

The partnership is the brain child of teacher Wendy Stark, who initiated the program in June of 2012. Two times a month, all 29 fifth-graders in Stark’s class walk from the elementary school to the child care center during class time. Once a month, several students volunteer for the hour-long, after school program.

“My kids love it,” Stark said as she watched the older students work with the younger group at low tables set in the center’s activities room.

Donna Richards, director at the child care center, is equally pleased.

“These kids just soak this in,” Richards said of the children ages 3 to 6. Employees at the child care center also help with the projects, like spreading plastic sheets on the table and carrying the cups filled with the liquid dye.

“The students love the interaction with the little ones,” Stark said. And as for the little ones, “they love every minute of it.”

The elementary students volunteer their time and there is no school requirement to complete service hours.

“I love to get them out in the community. They need a sense of community,” Stark said. She also said Richards and child care center owner Marlene Wendel were more than receptive to the idea when she approached them about a year ago.

For student Toni Gerace, 10, and an only child, March 27 was the second time volunteering after school and as part of the entire class.

“I thought it was fun to dye Easter eggs. I like this age group. They are a fun age because they can talk,” Toni said.

Standing beside her friend, Toni, was Kari Kostanich, 11.

She volunteers because, “I wanted to see the kids,” Kari said. This was her second trip to the child care center.

“When we were here before they were so sweet and they sat on my lap. Everyone knows how to dye eggs,” Kari said.

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