MATAWAN – A local early education academy is helping its young preschoolers become “little philanthropists” through a curriculum geared towards teaching lessons of hope and charitability, while also providing hands-on opportunities for students to effect change with their newfound skills.
“As part of The Learning Experience, we have a philanthropy curriculum [that] helps the children to learn that there is a world outside of their school and that … it is not about how big or small you are, it is the size of your heart that matters,” said Trish Tyler, assistant director of The Learning Experience in Matawan.
October and November saw the academy, located at 762 Rt. 34 in the borough, raise more than $600 towards advancing research and raising awareness about breast cancer, which Tyler said affects one in eight women and most families on some level.
“There was a three-year-old who was talking to his mom about what we were doing and was like ‘I’m a philanthropist mom’ so the fact that a three-year-old knew what the word philanthropist meant, it was super cool to see that in action,” she said.
According to Tyler, funds were donated in support of the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk that took place in Point Pleasant on Oct. 18.
“Everybody thinks kids are blind to things, but kids are a lot smarter than most people give them credit for,” she said. “They see what their grandmas are going through or what the moms of their friends are going through and they want to help.”
“They actually get that there are doctors somewhere who need money to help try to find a cure for this … and it is really exciting to see them in action. It gives you hope for the future.”
Tyler said encouraging students to be hands-on in their community and helping to effect change provides an education that can help make them well rounded in the future.
“Early childhood education is so important because it is about creating good little human beings for the future,” she said. “That is why we take things very seriously here – philanthropy, manners, etiquette, being nice to people … you want people that are going to give back and give hope to the future,” she said.
“It is about creating a good human being who is going to be well rounded and who is going to go out there and make a success out of whatever they choose to do.”
With lessons focusing on the value of helping others, volunteering and donating, Tyler said the decision to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer was easy.
“Breast cancer is something that we take very seriously because we’ve had numerous students whose parents have had to deal with it, so it hits very close to home,” Tyler said. “It is something we see on a daily basis so … we couldn’t think of anything else that we would want to sponsor more in October than something to do with breast cancer.”
According to Tyler, last year approximately $250 was raised in support of finding a cure, and this year the academy did things a little differently to double that number.
“The year before we had raised $250 and we had literally done that just by talking it up with parents and taking donations at the front desk,” Tyler said.
“This year … we did donations, but this time we did it online through the actual Making Strides site where we created our own micro-site that made it a lot more convenient for parents.”
“We bumped up the convenience factor of it so there was no excuse not to help.”
Like many municipalities passing resolutions declaring October “Paint the Town Pink” month in support of breast cancer awareness, Tyler said the academy decided to use the color as well to help generate support.
“Every Friday we went crazy by basically painting the school pink whether it was pink hair, pink jewelry, pink makeup … we even had special pink uniform shirts for the entire month of October that we wore every Friday to kind of bump up our presence,” she said.
“On the wall in our lobby everybody who donated had a pink ribbon until we basically filled up the wall with them.”
Tyler said also increasing presence on social media helped generate support.
“One of our vendors … who is a childhood friend of mine … her grandmother had to deal with [breast cancer and] she saw on our Facebook page that we were doing this with the school so she got the vendor to donate money to us which pushed us over our goal of $500 because we wanted to double what we did last year,” Tyler said.
“This was the first time we really used socially media and it was just amazing how well it worked. I was shocked.
“I feel like you can’t ask a community to support you, unless you support that community … and bumping that convenience factor up made it easier to double our efforts.”
Tyler said that come December the academy will be switching gear and getting into the season spirit by helping generate support for a new mitten drive aimed to assist the RAINE Foundation of Hazlet.
“Part of our curriculum, a big thing we are going to be working on, is changes in weather, so I got in contact with them and said we would love to do a cold weather drive and get them mittens, hats, gloves, scarves,” she said. “It is the first time we have ever done a mitten drive so I am excited to see how this could potentially turn out.”
The Learning Experience is one of the nation’s fastest growing academies of early education for children ages six weeks to five years old.
The academy places a prominent focus on preparing children academically and socially through innovative scholastic and enrichment programs crucial to advancing learning and overall balance, such as philanthropy, manners and etiquette and foreign language.
For more information visit www.thelearningexperience.com.