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All In A Snow Day’s Work…

Here we are. January 25th, two and a half feet of snow, and a campus temporarily paralyzed by Winter Storm Jonas. Looking out, some of us were a little discouraged to see snowdrifts up passed the lower sills of our windows while others couldn’t wait to bundle up and get outside to play.

So what does it look like to a Houseparent when we get the call that classes are cancelled for a day at MHS? For Jacqui and me, we immediately devise a strategic battle plan that will bust through the boredom barrier like a PennDOT snowplow on 1-76. In other words, we come up with ideas to help pass the time and keep things moving throughout the day.

Erik Niel with friends enjoing with snow

As soon as I woke up this morning, Jacqui was ready with a schedule. “From this time to then, we’ll do this, and then we’ll do that from here to there and…” I would just like to start with a cup of hot tea, but she knows that for us, it definitely helps to have activities lined up for the day.

For us, it really helps to have some kind of plan. Some houseparents have found that no plan works best, moving with the flow of whatever works best to keep the kids interested and entertained, and it works for them and their student homes. The students at MHS, on a regular school day, follow a pretty tight routine, so having that day to just relax with no set schedule in place is okay.

In our student home, we find it works best to give the kids some sort of idea what we have planned for the day. Since we have elementary-aged students, they aren’t too concerned with an over-booked day because they really could spend the afternoon playing in the recreation room and be perfectly content. But they also know that we like to keep busy too, so an overview of activities is usually announced at breakfast.

Erik Niel with friends skating in snow

Our snow day today sort of went like this… After breakfast, Jacqui had a few students to finish up with their Spring clothing fitting, so while they were doing that (for about an hour) there was some free time. In the Rec Room, some of the girls played with dolls, while others learned how to use the Fashion Plates that we got them for Christmas (which were a big hit by the way. Old toys are the best!)

Once all of the fittings were finished, we all layered up and headed out into the frozen tundra known as the back yard for some sledding, climbing snow mountains, and an epic snowball battle to round out the morning.

After lunch, we divided the group up into smaller teams and had them move around into what we call our “centers.” One center offers some free time in our resource room, learning to use technology responsibly and having fun with learning games. Our next center is for open time in the rec room to play games, play with toys, or work on some arts and crafts. And our final center is held in the dining room, where we had the girls create something using Beados-another gift they got at Christmas. We usually play music for the kids and encourage them to build a puzzle, or play a board game. Each center lasts about an hour and the smaller groups rotate around until they have spent time at every center. The girls like the smaller group setting, and we have found that the centers give the girls an opportunity to enjoy each of the fun areas we have set up.

Students Playing in Snow

Can you believe it is about 4 o’clock already? So now for a bit before dinner, we reconvened to color a submission for the houseparent advisory’s Valentine’s Day coloring contest held in February. Each student colored a Valentine’s themed drawing and they are voted on in different age categories by the HPA on Valentine’s Day. After we finish these up, we spent about an hour focusing on our monthly lesson of the Home Life Curriculum known as The Compass Project. This month’s activity had us learning about cooperation, and the importance of working together. Our girls enjoy the motivating activities and are often quick to demonstrate what they have learned in the lessons.

Now it’s time for dinner, followed by chores, and we all settled down for an evening movie. Some of our students have decided to participate in an essay writing contest for Women’s History Month and spent some of their movie time drafting ideas about a woman who has been important in their lives. We also rotated games of Connect 4 for the elementary recreation’s annual winter competition. Our students played each other to see who will be our Student Home Connect 4 champion. That student plays others for the division, trying to obtain the title of Connect 4 Division Champ 2016.

Student enjoying the drink

After the movie, the girls headed to bed for some quiet reading time while they listened to some soft, instrumental music through the house to wind things down for the day. It was a fun day, a quick moving day, and now it is done. Exhausted and ready to turn in yourself? I wouldn’t be surprised if you are just from reading this. All in a Snow Day’s work!

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MHS Houseparent Blogs

Houseparents at Milton Hershey School significantly impact the lives of our students. Because houseparents work so closely with students, houseparents are important role models. Read the blogs of our houseparents and hear directly from the caring couples who support and nurture our students.

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