DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Beverly Nagel brings the horse Squirt to meet moms and kids on a Field Trip Friends Hawaii excursion to Circle C Ranch. Corin Gentry-Balding holds up her kids, 4-year-old Kaimana and 2-year-old Nautica, for a close look. With them is Talulah Botha, age 5. CLICK FOR LARGE
Friends on the move
An ex-teacher takes families on weekly outdoor explorations
CINDY Macfarlane-Flores might traditionally be called a stay-at-home mom, but she proudly considers herself a "stay-outside" mom.
Yes, the former teacher wanted to be home with her young son, Shore, but a need for intellectual stimulation caused her to establish a business, Field Trip Friends Hawaii.
"After being involved in many different parent-child activities, I decided to develop a program that not only stimulates the child's senses and mind, but one that also provides new learning experiences for the parents," Macfarlane-Flores said.
The outdoor sessions are geared toward entertaining and teaching children ages 1 to 4 about the environment while providing educational, cultural and historical information for parents.
"As my son has grown, I have learned how important it is to introduce him to the wonderful things this world has to offer," she said. "It's my job as a parent to expose him to different learning situations and raise him with an appreciation for the environment."
On a recent beach excursion, 3-year-old Hannah Barnhill put on sporty blue sunglasses and searched for crabs, collected pieces of coral and stones, and learned how sand is made and how beach glass is formed. Later she was able to watch a dolphin trainer and view some sea turtles. "We enjoy getting outside and doing new things," said her mother, Heather Barnhill.
Gretchen Botha attends sessions with her daughters, 5-year-old Talulah and 3-year-old Stella. "Both of them get different things from the program," she said. "It's fun to go to places I've never been. Normally, it is easier to go to the beach. We are all learning something together."
These are the types of reactions that Macfarlane-Flores is seeking. "The goal is to get families outdoors, learning about our rich environment, including animals, the ocean, land and precious Hawaiian culture and history."
Her 16 years of teaching, from Epiphany School, Mid-Pacific Institute and Punahou School to Kamaaina Kids and Camp Timberline, has helped her form a curriculum that ties into each outing.
Son Shore gets to scout out field-trip locations. "He's actually my true guide," she said. "If the area is too difficult or boring for him, then I don't choose it as a location for the groups. If he has a blast exploring and the terrain is suitable and easy for him, then it's usually on our list of field trips."
Yoko Nuuhiwa lives in Waianae, and the field trips take her to other parts of the island. "It's so simple, the way she explains about nature. We learn so much," she said.
Nuuhiwa's 4-year-old daughter, Joy, enjoyed an up-close visit with some horses. "I liked petting the horse," she said. "I was a little bit scared."
Amy Bednarczyk had been in Hawaii for five years but had not done much exploring with her 3-year-old daughter, Hannah, and 8-month-old son, Nickolas. Field Trip Friends changed that.
"We visited a heiau and taro patch ... places I've never been. And, we get to spend quality time with the kids."