Laura Cluff holds up half a hardboiled egg for her pre-K 4 students to see. She explains the parts of it and puts it into the small hands of a child who inspects it and passes it along to the next set of open hands. Miss Laura conducts the STEAM-based lesson that is a lead-up to the grand finale—an incubator on a table next to Miss Laura cradles a dozen eggs that are days away from hatching. Excitement is in the air.
The last person to receive the egg is 26-year-old Sarah Johnson, a volunteer in Miss Laura’s classroom at the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center of the Madison Area YMCA. She returns the egg to Miss Laura and then assists with circle time on the rug.
For the past few years, three days a week, Sarah comes to the Kirby Center on East Street in Madison to help in Miss Laura’s classroom. “My favorite part is helping the little kids whenever they need help,” says Sarah, pushing back her glasses that match her purple shirt. “Second would be helping with field trips to the zoo and library.”
It’s time to take the 16 children outside to fly kites. As the children are slathered with sunblock, Sarah holds the door open for the line that is forming. “I have a disability called Down syndrome,” she says. “My friends that I bowl with and go out to dinner with have it too,” noting that she has participated as a Special Olympics bowler since she was in high school.
“Sarah shares love and kindness in our classroom,” says Miss Laura. “It’s so wonderful to have her here to help. She plays, reads and dances with the children, helps with craft projects and provides lots of TLC when the preschoolers need it. The kids see her as a teacher.”
The Madison Area YMCA is fortunate to have scores of volunteers that help in classrooms at the Kirby Center, serve as instructors and coaches in the sports program, assist with clerical tasks at the Family Center and participate in fundraising activities.
Walking out to the grassy area with the children and other teachers, Sarah is ready to enjoy a kite-flying activity with the class. A fan of Mary Poppins, Sarah sings, “Let’s go fly a kite up to the highest height,” as her kite takes flight.
Making a stop at the playground on the way back, the preschoolers climb the jungle gym and run around. Sarah makes her rounds to several spots before she finds a little girl whose coat zipper is stuck. After helping unjam the zipper, she gives her a hug. “My hugs are like magic,” says Sarah with a smile.