Monday, March 19, 2018

Recycling Urban Trees

Note: We’re recycling a post that was originally published in April 2010. And we have an update: In October of this year, more than 100 members of West Coast Arborists will return to Fairyland for our third annual Arbor Camp and Work Day. The bulk of the work will take place Saturday, Oct. 13, when six ailing trees will be removed and undergrowth along our fence line will be cleared. In conjunction with this work, we’ll be scheduling a variety of related activities for our guests. Stay tuned!

By C.J. Hirschfield

For more than a decade, three huge redwood logs languished at the back of Fairyland’s meadow and picnic area. I have no idea when the tree was felled, but we had tried over the years to have someone haul the “waste” away and put the wood to good use, but to no avail. Too expensive.

So it was with a huge amount of joy that I watched last weekend as professional arborists from all over the great state of California turned those logs—right in front of the eyes of a thousand kids—into boards to be transformed by those same kids into hundreds of birdhouses that they could take back to their homes.

Arborist at work.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Poop: Gateway to a World of Science

By C.J. Hirschfield

You know what they say about business success: “Always listen to your customers.”

At Children’s Fairyland, we’re always listening. And what do we hear our customers talking about? Poop.
"Everyone Poops," a favorite in Fairyland's Reading Room.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Dolly and Me

By C.J. Hirschfield
I’ve always been a big fan of Dolly Parton’s singing, songwriting, acting and no-apologies, over-the-top style. I never thought we had much in common, though -- until now.
Dolly Parton wearing fairy wings!

You see, Dolly and I are in a special club of women – maybe it’s just the two of us – who run theme parks that champion early childhood literacy: Dollywood and Children’s Fairyland. So in addition to ensuring the ongoing safety of rides, and managing food service and gift shops, we are all about kids and books.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Surprising Substitute

By C.J. Hirschfield
A couple of weeks ago, Fairyland’s education director and animal caretaker were all set to visit East Oakland’s Markham Elementary School as part of Science Alive!, our life-sciences outreach program, when disaster struck. Melissa Tauber, who is charged with caring for the park’s 20-plus animals, came down sick—the first sick day she’s ever taken.
What to do? We had two kindergarten classes that were expecting a very special day, and the show had to go on.
Up stepped Nick Mitchell, Fairyland’s facilities manager.
Nick Mitchell and his son, Axel.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

By C.J. Hirschfield

I’m not ashamed to say that I have a copy of a little book by my bedside titled Wisdom from The World According to Mr.Rogers: Important Things to Remember. It features quotes and anecdotes from Fred Rogers about courage, love, inner discipline and, of course, being good neighbors.

For those of you who don’t know who Mr. Rogers was (he died in 2003), he hosted a revolutionary children’s television show called “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” for over three decades. Wearing his signature zippered cardigans (knitted by his mother), and joined by his puppet friends, he spread the message of kindness and love—always respecting kids, and never talking down to them.

The U.S. Postal Service just announced that it will immortalize Mr. Rogers with a Forever postage stamp. (It will be released in March.) A documentary about Fred Rogers, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. And if this isn’t enough, Oakland’s own Tom Hanks recently signed on to star in a biopic about Mr. Rogers, You Are My Friend.

Why all the sudden interest in Mr. Rogers? When you think about it, we’ve never needed him more than we do now.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Day in the Life at Primary Care

By C.J. Hirschfield

A 10-year-old boy in foster care comes out of his shell after completing a program at Fairyland that teaches him how to be an expert animal caretaker.

A 6-year-old boy, being raised by his grandmother after his brother was shot, enjoys coming with her to a place where he can be a kid again.

An elementary school student in East Oakland wins a Fairyland family pass in a library reading contest, and regularly takes the bus with her mom to delight in our laid-back reading room and literacy-rich activities.

The 2016 Junior Animal Caretaker group enjoys a visit from the Oakland Zoo's Zoomobile, one of several Fairyland community resources for underserved families.

An autistic child surprises his mom by boldly swallowing an edible flower during a horticultural therapy session in Fairyland’s gardens.

We’ve seen how our low-tech, high-touch park can have a markedly therapeutic effect on kids and their family members who have experienced trauma and other challenges.

Which is why we are so pleased that our newest board member, primary care pediatrician Javay Ross, understands the role Children’s Fairyland can play in helping families heal and thrive, and will help us move even further in that direction.

Dr. Javay Ross, Fairyland's newest board member.

We asked Javay, who works at an Oakland clinic for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland (BCHO), to make a presentation at our last board meeting about the state of pediatric health in Oakland. She decided the best way to do that would be to draw from her actual experience: a day in the life in primary care. She chose a few patients from the 12 she saw during a single day.

Here are a few of them, in her own words:

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Sprite Alights

By C.J. Hirschfield

I often tell people that there really is magic at Fairyland. As proof, I observe that the people who work here seem to have been destined to do so.

And as a case in point, I give you Jacqui June Whitlock, our new program manager, who at a recent meeting of the Children’s Fairyland board of directors entertained a roomful of adults with her balloon-twisting talents.