HomeMoorestown NewsParks & Rec. snags two state awards

Parks & Rec. snags two state awards

The department was recognized for “Excellence in Educational & Interpretive Programming” and “Excellence in Visual & Cultural Programming.”

For the second year in a row, the state has taken notice of the Moorestown Department of Parks and Recreation. In late February, the department was recognized for “Excellence in Educational & Interpretive Programming” for its recreation community kitchen as well as for “Excellence in Visual & Cultural Programming” for “The Art of Polynesia” by the New Jersey Recreation & Park Association. This comes one year after the department was awarded the 2017–2018 Jacquie Stanley Excellence in Therapeutic Programming award from the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association.

Parks & Rec staffer Cyndi Britton, who coordinates the community kitchen programming, said the educational and interpretive programming award was 20 years in the making. The Church Street Recreation Center was constructed in 1938, and the first attempts to upgrade the third floor began then.

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Britton said throughout that time, volunteers and donors gave their time and money to help equip the third floor of the space. Air conditioning units, an elevator and modern bathrooms were installed on that level, but despite the surrounding improvements, the kitchen was never fully brought to code.

In 2012, the final drive to get the kitchen back in working order began. The department fundraised around $60,000 worth of donations to install a fire suppression system, a washer and hand-washing sink. The improvements brought the kitchen to code and enabled Parks & Rec to start offering an array of cooking and baking classes.

Today, the department has offered more than 200 culinary classes, which are open to adults, children and individuals with special needs. Cooks of all ages can learn new cooking and baking skills, and some of the classes have students making family meals to bring home.

“Every class we’ve run have been suggested by the kids; they’re things they’d like to do,” Britton said.

The department has established a vocational program with Moorestown High School’s special needs program where, twice a week, special needs students come to the department’s kitchen and make dog biscuits from scratch. The department also utilizes the kitchen in its Social Meeting after School Hours program, which gives teenagers and young adults with special needs an opportunity to participate in social activities.

Wegmans in Moorestown provides the department with basic pantry items every quarter. From flour, butter and sugar, the donations have enabled the department to cut costs and grow programming. The Rec also regularly sponsors individuals who can’t afford to participate in these programs.

“I just think it’s a wonderful life skill that these kids are able to learn how to cook and enjoy it,” Britton said.

Sophia Geiger, one of the department’s art instructors, has also brought award-winning programming to the Rec. Her “Art of Polynesia” program was recognized for exposing students to cultures beyond the borders of Moorestown.

Geiger offers six-week art programs twice a season. Each winter, Geiger tries to expose students to art lessons based in specific cultures. With the recent popularity of Disney’s “Moana,” Geiger thought last winter was the perfect time to take students on a journey exploring the Polynesian islands.

The program used “Moana” as a vehicle to teach students about New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Hawaii. During the New Zealand section, students learned about the Maori’s traditional dances and made poi balls. When they took their fictional journey to Samoa, they learned all about tribal tattoos and decorated fish hooks with some of the ancient symbols. While learning about Fiji, students made tapa clothes, a traditional Fijian fabric, out of tree bark.

With any program she teaches, Geiger’s goal is twofold: for students to have fun and to gain an appreciation for art that they carry with them. Geiger said she wants students to know art comes in many forms, and one day they can create clothes, furniture or anything else they dream up.

“I’d like to expose them to all of these possibilities,” Geiger said.

While she knew her students were excited by the program, Geiger was especially humbled to learn her program was acknowledged at the state level.

“It shows that we’re doing something right,” Geiger said.

Theresa Miller, director of Moorestown’s Parks & Rec department, said given that they were competing against all of the municipalities in the state, the department is especially proud to have three state awards under their belt.

“I’m very proud of our staff because I know how hard they have worked,” Miller said. “To get an award on a state level is really just an honor.”

To find out more about the department and its offerings, visit http://www.moorestown.nj.us/253/Parks-Recreation.


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