On a January day, children participating in the RecSchool preschool program had a "snow day" at Gantz Park.

CORRECTION: The caption in the print version and an earlier online version of this story misidentified the student in the photo with the snowman.

On a January day, children participating in the RecSchool preschool program had a "Snow day" at Gantz Park.

Some of the children were building snowmen, others were making snow angels and a few were having playful snowball fights.

They were having fun, but they were also learning, said Michele Demmy, RecSchool coordinator.

"That's how children at this age learn," she said. "They learn by playing."

Save for days with a dangerous storm or a temperature or wind chill below 20 degrees, children ages 3-5 enrolled in RecSchool spend a portion of their class time outdoors and exploring Gantz Park at 2259 Home Road in Grove City.

RecSchool's nature-based focus is ideal for its location, Demmy said.

Sessions are held in the barn at Gantz Park.

"The park is such a wonderful place for the children to explore," Demmy said. "We're so lucky to have Gantz Park as a resource. We take them on a walk through the woods or to explore the creekside, or (have them) pick up items they find and bring back. A leaf, or even a stick, is really interesting to look at under a microscope."

"The walks around the park offer our students a little adventure each day," said Karen DeVore, RecSchool teacher. "And that's what we say to them -- we're going out to have an adventure."

Some RecSchool students have not had much exposure to the outdoors, Demmy said.

"As we become more sedentary, children can spend so much screen time on their computers or devices," she said. "It doesn't seem like kids are spending as much time outdoors as they used to."

The time they spend exploring the park helps improve students' physical and mental well-being and improves their focus in the classroom, she said.

It also heightens their self-confidence, DeVore said.

"Every day, they're developing their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills as they come across new things in the woods," she said.

A newly downed tree can provide an opportunity for youngsters to use those skills, Demmy said.

"They have to decide now they're going to get past the tree," she said. "Some walk over it, some under it and some kids choose walk around it. It's always interesting to see what choices they make."

RecSchool is licensed by the state of Ohio and uses the Ohio Department of Education's early education content standards as guidelines for the curriculum, Demmy said.

The program is held weekdays September through May, with participants taking half-day classes two or three times a week. Both morning and afternoon sessions are offered.

An open house for the program will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at Gantz Barn in Gantz Park.

While youngsters draw a picture, read a book or participate in an activity, parents will be able to visit the classrooms, meet staff members, pick up registration information and schedule a registration appointment.

Children must be 3 years old by Sept. 30, 2019, to participate in the 2019-20 program, Demmy said.

Registration for next year's program will begin in mid-February. For details contact Demmy at 614-871-6330 or mdemmy@grovecityohio.gov.

For more information on RecSchool, visit the Preschool/Youth page at Parks.GroveCityOhio.gov.

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