Site of the Month: Bollinger Canyon
One of the first things a family might notice about Kids’ Country’s Bollinger Canyon site is a beautiful mosaic on the front of the building with the words, “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” This inspired mural, called Four Seasons, was created in 2012 by Bay Area artist Lela Witherspoon and the kids of Bollinger Canyon. Like many Kids’ Country programs, the mural merges art and science in a seamless way to meaningfully engage students in a creative process.
Students and families are warmly greeted at Bollinger Canyon, often by Site Director Celina Ng. Celina has served the children at Bollinger since 2008. As she puts it, “I like to be here to greet parents and children as they enter the space. We want children to enjoy being here and families to feel like this is a safe and happy place where they don’t have to worry about their kids.”
One of the unique aspects of Kids’ Country in general is the amount of attention to the physical environment of each site, which generally reflects the creativity of the staff and children. “I work with my staff to create a warm, nurturing environment where we treat the children like our own,” says Celina. Bollinger Canyon staff work to connect with each child to identify their interests, which is reflected in the space.
Parent Magali Le Bouder, whose children Madenn (10) and Maè (8) are Kids’ Country veterans, said, “All of the staff are great. They are extremely committed and want to know about the kids and be part of their lives.”
Celina credits her staff for the strong programs at Bollinger Canyon. Assistant Site Director Faye Bonferrada works with the teachers to create engaging programs tailored to the ages of the children. For example, teacher Maria Aguilar created a week long, cultural Adventure to Mexico for the younger children, teaching them about the country, the flag, music, art, Day of the Dead celebration and more. The children carried the adventure into cooking when they made guacamole on Tasty Tuesday.
Tasty Tuesdays is one of the several themed activity days at Bollinger. While the younger kids made their guacamole, the older kids learned how to make flavored butters. Wednesdays are ‘Zone Days’ for the younger children with creative, building and extreme activities in well-stocked, designated spaces. Wednesdays are also Club Days—older student-initiated clubs for drama, art and construction, among others.
Jane Ferguson, parent of Olivia (3rd grade) and James (1st grade), said, “I like the diversity of programs and that they’re learning without even realizing their learning.”
The kids also love the diversity of the programming. 5th grader Isaac enthusiastically described his experience. “I like all the activities, but mainly the outdoor ones like flag football”, he said.
“I like coming here more than other places. I like all the activities, especially the tie-dye,” said 5th grader Arushi, who happened to proudly be wearing her tie-died shirt. While playing tabletop football, 4th graders Bryce), Jackson ,and Robert enthusiastically agreed that they “like coming here to spend time with our friends.”
Every Kids’ Country site is part of a larger school community and neighborhood. As Executive Director Stacy Litteral describes it, The Bollinger Canyon community is special. They have very high standards for their children and the programs that we offer.”
Magali Le Bouder points out, “We really like Kids’ Country. It’s a very important part of my day and my daughters’ day. They get to do all the things the school doesn’t have time do, like science and building social interactions. It’s been really good to us.” Board member and Bollinger Canyon parent Mark Contino says, “I couldn’t ask for a better place for my kids after school. They help with homework, they continue their learning with great workshops and projects, and most importantly they have fun…as a parent it gives you terrific peace of mind that, other than at home, they are in the best place they could be.”
At the end of the day, Celina simply states, “I just want to give the kids a fun experience they will remember for life.”