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Shining Stars Childcare embraces nature's classroom

Day care center encourages kids to interact with nature, animals to prevent nature deficit disorder.
Posted at 2:24 PM, Jul 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-19 15:24:42-04

HOBART (NBC 26) — One daycare uses nature as its classroom in which children and teachers are encouraged to get their hands and feet dirty along the way.

A popular activity to do just that is during the Shining Stars Childcare's Mud Day. A day strictly geared toward simply playing in a mud pit created outside of the playground area.

“Mud Day is a blast for everybody. I usually participate in my day every time we do it," said Meagan Rodi, director at Shining Stars Childcare in Hobart.

Mud play is an activity enjoyed by some and not so much by others as some children choose to play in the garden or on the playground.

Rodi says being outside in any way is what she believes is one of the best ways to learn. Her children attend Shining Stars as well.

“I initially moved to the Green Bay Area with my husband in 2017. And we had two kiddos at the time. We were looking for quality childcare and speaking with my neighbors. We, we've we heard about Shining Stars," Rodi said. "They referred to it as the hippie childcare center.”

That hippie center is Shining Stars Childcare, which opened its first location in Suamico 24 years ago. The Hobart location is the second location, which opened in 2014.

“They told me about their child coming here, having bare feet you know, lots of wooded areas around the building, a huge nature space and that sounded right up my alley, especially hearing that they had animals," Rodi said. "We decided that that's a place where we definitely want our children to go”

Chickens are also a normal sight at the center along with bunnies that hop around the classroom. There is also a large wooded area where children can explore the great outdoors up close.

The area includes a zip line, wooded forts and play sets.

“They get to be in the woods. They get to hang out with the chickens and work in the gardens. They won't remember this specific day, but they will remember the feelings," said Laura Peszko, owner of Shining Stars.

Peszko and her husband founded Shining Stars on the basis of creative learning in nature.

“If it's not in the hand or in the heart, it can't be in the head," Peszko said. "So it doesn't happen in a workbook page. It has to happen by touching, feeling, doing.”

Shining Stars mission is rooted in preventing nature deficit disorder. A term coined by American writer Richard Louv.

He states that lacking exposure of nature contributes to a diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, conditions of obesity and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses.

The Child Mind Institute backs this up with studies showing that the average American child spends an average of four to seven minutes outside everyday and more than seven hours in front of a screen.

With the emphasis of outdoor learning, Rodi knew Shining Stars was destined to cross her path.

“I would have found out about Shining Stars one way or another," Rodi said. "My chiropractor one time said, 'Oh my kids went to Shining Stars' and I would have found out about it and heard about this place because it's so unique. People really enjoy having their kids here.”

Demand for enrollment is so high that there is a one-year wait list.