by Ingrid Spetz
The children gathered round in their white blouses, green ruffled skirts and flower-laden hair. A hush fell over the crowd as these sweet-faced girls put on their smiles and gathered the edges of their skirts. The music started — and so began a dizzying array of twirling skirts and stepping feet.
No, this wasn’t a Cinco de Mayo celebration; it was one of the activities featured during this year’s Dia del Niño celebration at Maxwell Farms Regional Park in Sonoma Valley. The dancers were the folkloric dance troupe from El Verano School. Their performance was one of the highlights of the day, when everyone came together and rejoiced in celebrating the children.
The events at the park, including a piñata, nature exploration, environmental activity tables, food vendors, face painting, arts and crafts, rock climbing and “riding” in a kayak, were part of a larger set of outdoor environmental education activities offered throughout Sonoma County at various parks and preserves as part of the second annual Day of the Child event put on by the Sonoma Environmental Education Collaborative, or SEEC. It is one of the primary ways that SEEC showcases the work of its member organizations to the families of the children whose classes participate in programs throughout the year.
What really impressed me most about this event at Maxwell Park was the way the various community groups came together to create it. Tony Passantino of Sonoma Ecology Center spearheaded the project and pulled in members of La Luz Center, the Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley and El Verano School to ask for their participation in helping to create the event. Angie Sanchez of La Luz Center inspired the flavor of the event by offering to reach out to local musicians, obtaining the piñata and creating a story board where participants could add what Dia del Niño meant to them. Mario Castillo of El Verano School arranged for the folkloric dancers and the food vendors, and offered Spanish interpretation to encourage participation in the nature walk. The Boys & Girls Club offered to open up their gym for the children to use the climbing wall and for the performances and music. And each of them spread the word about the event to their communities.
In all, we had around 200 participants in the day’s activities. There were many smiling faces and happy children everywhere. It was such a pleasure to see so many people actively engaged and inspired to be exploring the natural world and celebrating family. Hats off to all the organizers for working together to create such a joyous event!
Photos by Tony Passantino.
Ingrid Spetz is Sonoma Land Trust's outings manager.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.