St. Charles Park District partners with local organization for one-of-a-kind offerings.
Many homes wouldn’t feel complete without the love and companionship of a pet, and new programs offered through the St. Charles Park District will show young children just how to provide care for these furry family members.
The park district is partnering with the organization, Little Medical School Chicago West, to present Little Veterinarian classes. Geared to children ages 4 to 10, the classes will explore how to nurture animals—dogs and cats come in the form of cuddly plush toys—with physical examinations, tick removal and lessons on animal nutrition. Classes will run on Tuesdays from January 18 through February 22, with Little Veterinarian (Dog) taking place from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and its feline counterpart from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m. Both programs will take place at Pottawatomie Community Center.
Additionally, young community members can sign up for Wilderness Medicine, another program of Little Medical School. This course allows kids to navigate the potential perils of the great outdoors with lessons in dangerous pests and plants, ways to fashion tourniquets and splints in the event of injury and even how to clean water so it’s safe to drink. Wilderness Medicine will take place from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays, January 15 through February 19, also at the community center.
“We’re excited to offer these niche, one-of-a-kind programs for the community,” said Alex Weidner, aquatics and youth programs supervisor for the Park District. ”In the last year or so, we’ve seen explosive growth in our programs that involve animals. It seems like people just really want to reconnect with other people and animals, and the Little Veterinarian classes are a great way to do that.”
The STEM-based programs are not only fun for young pupils, but can support a child’s burgeoning desire to learn more about a given line of work, said Shaun Willis, president of Little Medical School Chicago West. Its headquarters in St. Louis, Little Medical School is a franchise with locations across the globe.
“Our feedback shows that parents most often sign their kids up because a student displays an interest in the medical field,” Willis said.
“A lot of our content is material kids haven’t seen before,” he added.
Courses are typically taught by pre-med students, with curriculum developed by board-certified physicians as well as educators, who work to ensure information is accessible and formulated in a way that fosters active learning.
“We focus on as much engagement as possible,” Willis said. “We look for a lot of participation, and the curriculum is not so advanced that a younger child can’t follow.”
In Little Veterinarian courses, kids put their newfound knowledge into practice by using a mortar and pestle to crush medicine intended for an animal. Students grip safe, blunt-tip needles to do sutures and then learn how to monitor and care for the affected area. At-home tasks are also addressed such as proper set-up and maintenance of a kitty litter box and how to make treats and toys.
Courses utilize supplies that are easy to come by, and material is formatted so kids can take the information home with them to share with their families.
“There are a lot of ways for parents to get more involved,” Willis said.
Willis particularly enjoys seeing how students respond to the information and exercises showcased in Wilderness Medicine.
“The program includes so many fun activities,” he said.
Among them is concocting homemade repellent to ward off mosquitos and learning 20 ways to use a bandana. The class covers other real-world dangers such as snake bites and hypothermia, so students leave armed with the know-how nature can demand.
At the end of every program, students will have the opportunity to mark their achievements with a special diploma.
For more information and to sign up, visit www.stcparks.org/register.