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by Patty Cheffey
As a why to encourage more youngsters to enjoy the outdoors, the Palmyra Parks and Recreation Department have partnered with Jen Vaughn to start children’s nature programs at Flower City Park.
Vaughn, who said she has always had a love of the outdoors, will be leading various monthly events right now for young people, toddler age through middle school.
“I want to expand to all ages, but Doug (Meyer, park director) suggested we start small and see how that goes,” said Vaughn, noting the programs are appropriate for all ages, but geared towards the toddler to middle school age children.
Vaughn said she was the one who approached Meyers about the idea, and with him on board and her having the background to get the resources, the program was a go.
The first program is fall related and will be held Thursday, Oct. 20, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the hopes day cares and parents bring toddlers out during the day and the older kids can come out after school, Vaughn said.
“We will be doing leaf rubbings and flower and leaf pressed or stamped clay bowls,” she said, adding she is bringing in some outside help for the first program.
The Quincy Children’s Museum, which is under the guidance of Amy Peters, a friend of Vaughn’s, will be there with some of its exhibits, including big blue blocks, a magnet wall and sensory tables.
On Saturday, Oct. 20 from 10 a.m. to noon, a similar program will take place at the park and will again feature the nature pressed clay boys and leaf rubbings.
Vaughn, the former Jen Meyer, a 2010 Palmyra High School graduate, said her “love for the outdoors has always been bright.
“From riding bikes to collecting fossils and geodes, it was often hard to get me inside,” she added. “That passion stayed with me throughout my college years where I began volunteering at therapeutic riding centers and camps for children and teens on the autism spectrum.”
Vaughn attributes her love of nature to her dad, John Meyer, who was always riding bikes and fossil hunting with her.
She is the current vice president of the Mississippi Hills Master Naturalists and often arranges speakers to address the group, including the Missouri Conservation Department and recently a native interpreter, who led the group on a wild edible hike.
Vaughn attended Moberly Area Community College and the University of Missouri-Columbia to get her degree in health sciences. She then went back to school at MACC to get her associate’s degree in occupational therapy assistant.
She and her husband, Cory, and their daughter, June, who will turn two in November, have enjoyed traveling to national parks
“More likely than not, you can find my toddler and I adventuring through our park or enjoying a new book from our library on native gardens or creating natural dyes,” she added. “As my passion for the outdoors continues to grow, it is my hope that I can share that same joy and excitement in our community with new nature-based programs.
“I am honored to be a part of our beautiful and ever growing park, and look forward to seeing you out there as well!”