Unplug and play - Tinkergarten program coming to Auburn

By: Gloria Young /Journal Staff Writer
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Tinkergarten classes with Theshia Geitz
10-11:15 a.m. Mondays, April 16-June 4 at Meadow Vista Park, Meadow Vista
10-11:15 a.m. Wednesdays, April 18-June 6, Recreation Park, Auburn
10-11:15 a.m. Fridays, April 20-June 8, Recreation Park, Auburn
Cost: $160 per eight-week session
Free introductory classes: 10 a.m.-11:15 a.m.
Meadow Vista Park - Monday, March 19; Saturday, March 24, and Monday, April 2
ARD Recreation Park - Wednesday, March 21, Friday, April 6; and Saturday, April 7
An Auburn resident wants to see children spend more time playing outdoors.  
Theshia Geitz, mother of four, has signed on to bring the nationwide Tinkergarten program to Auburn. Tinkergarten promotes childhood learning through exposure to nature.
The play-based activities, designed for children 18 months to 8 years and their parents, brings back rich child-directed play outdoors as a way for this new generation to learn something many of those in our generation took for granted, Geitz said in an email.
After completing a four-month online training program, she will introduce Tinkergarten locally with free sessions this month at Recreation Park in Auburn at Meadow Vista Park in Meadow Vista. 
Geitz is focusing on the 18-months-to-5-years-old age group. The one-hour-15-minute interactive sessions include songs, stories and outdoor projects and games.   
Each class has five parts. It begins with a 10-minute opening activity to acclimate children to their surroundings, then a welcome story or song, followed by the activity of the day.
“The main part is the guided play,” Geitz said. “We launch it and help the kids get into the activity. Once they are involved, we let them take it where they want to go with it. Parents can step back and oversee how children and learning and what they are interested in. They’re all doing the activity but in their own way.”
The first activity that Geitz has planned for her introductory sessions is making stone soup. It begins with reading a book called, “Stone Soup.” Afterward, children break into smaller groups and make a pretend soup, using rocks, pinecones, flowers and other things they have gathered as ingredients.
“After they have everything in the pot, we’ll discuss how to cook it. Then we’ll gather sticks and pretend to create a fire under the pot,” Geitz explained.
A closing circle reviews the activities of the day. The final activity is snack time, with parents providing the snacks for their children.
“We talk about what we learned that day and give parents a chance to talk about what they observed and what their children are learning,” she said. 
Geitz will have a Tinkergarten booth at the 2030 Club’s Easter Egg Hunt on March 31 at the Gold Country Fairgrounds.
“I will be there with information about Tinkergarten and provide several hands-on activities for kids attending the event,” she said in an email.
Geitz grew up on Amber Oaks Raspberry Farm in Auburn. She attended Rock Creek Elementary, Placer High and Sierra College. Her interest in education started when she enrolled in an ROP early education program. She worked toward a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and operated an in-home daycare for several years.
The Tinkergarten program originated in New York, started by a husband and wife team with a background in education and technology. 
Geitz hopes to nurture the joy and appreciation she has for the outdoors, gained through her years growing up on a farm.
“I am bringing this incredible early children education program to Auburn and Meadow Vista to help children develop critical capabilities such as self-reliance, creativity, persistence and problem-solving skills, all proven benefits of play-based outdoor learning,” she said.