Students enjoy safari at Harrowgate Elementary

At Harrowgate Elementary School, students and parents recently set out on an African safari, collecting games and knowledge as they followed a map in search of treasure.

The event, Family Adventure Night, is in its fourth year. Taffy Jones-Hayes, the school’s parent liaison, said that, while the evening is certainly fun, its focus is education, and not just that of the children.

Savanna Smith and first-grade student Kennesha Billups were among the many attendees at Family Adventure Night.“While the kids have a lot of fun, the night is actually geared to the parents,” Jones-Hayes said.
Before the games began, many families enjoyed dinner in the cafeteria. Erica Embe and her son, Dontae Weston, 6, were among those in the cafeteria. Embe said, as a parent, the fact that the school was offering such an event was exciting.

“I think I was more excited than he was,” she said. “It’s good for the kids.”

During dinner, the school received the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce’s All Star Community Partner award, which was presented by Superintendent Marcus Newsome to Principal Linda Wood. Harrowgate Elementary is the first recipient of the new honor.

For the evening, each child must bring their own adult with them, Jones-Hayes said. If a child doesn’t have an adult volunteer, volunteers from Thomas Dale High School accompany the students through the activities.

Each grade level does three different activities; each child does activities in reading and math, she said, and the third activity is either science or social studies.

“Each one is designed to teach the parent how to help their child,” she said. And, at the end of each activity, the students have a game to take with them.

Participation in the event is excellent, she said. By the end of the evening, she said, 85 percent of the school’s families would have participated in the games.

The event “was just an idea that we decided to do here,” she said. Organizers try to improve it every year, and they rely on the feedback received on a survey that families must fill out to get the “treasure,” she said.

“The treasure always includes books,” she said, and other items donated by area businesses. “We could not do this night without business participation.”

Jones-Hayes said the reason the event grows every year is that the families get to take the materials home to use. The students can learn at home by playing the games, she said.

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