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Preschoolers at UNR early education center set up lemonade stand for book drive

Two young children are standing in front of a lemonade stand while talking to two separate groups of adults. A teacher and another child are pouring lemonade at a table with a canopy tent behind them.
Jose Davila IV
KUNR Public Radio
Kids chat with lemonade stand customers on UNR’s Quad on July 27, 2023, in Reno, Nev.

A cohort of 3- and 4-year-olds set up a lemonade stand on the University of Nevada, Reno’s Quad on the morning of July 27. They were raising money for new books and learning through experience.

Preschoolers at UNR’s Child and Family Research Center took orders, passed out flyers, collected money, and served lemonade to a steady stream of parents, university workers, and even mascot Wolfie Jr.

The idea for the stand came organically after the class read a book about a frog who has his own lemonade stand and one of the students hosted one at their own house. Student worker Elena De La Paz said that guiding students’ curiosity and exploration at this young age is key in their development.

“So, honestly, just letting kids be kids. Letting them play, letting them take on their learning by themselves and us kind of following them, just walking with them, is what I would like to see,” she said.

That process is a big part of the center’s teaching philosophy.

Proceeds from the stand will go towards a book drive for the center. But, even more importantly, running the lemonade stand helps the kids reinforce math and social skills, said parent Cecilia Padilla.

“I think there’s different aspects of the learning that this can teach them. One, obviously with money, teaches them spending and just counting,” she said. “And just seeing the community come for them and just learning how community works. I think it’s a great idea.”

The center is an early childhood education laboratory school for UNR College of Education students to put their lessons into action with kids. The kids are mostly children of UNR employees, although the center also runs an Early Head Start program for low-income families in the area. It serves kids as young as 6 weeks old to those as old as 6 years old.

Developing passionate early childhood educators is the goal of the center. That is especially important in a state where child care can be difficult to find and expensive to enroll in. Center director Emily Bailey said she hopes to inspire potential educators.

“We want to show them what it looks like when you have high-quality early childhood education and what they have the ability to reach for, because if you reach a teacher, you reach so many children,” she said. “That’s why we do what we do and believe in the work that we do.”

As for the kids operating the lemonade stand, they seemed to be having more fun running around with Wolfie Jr. once the initial rush of customers was over.

Jose Davila IV is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Jose Davila IV reports on K-12 education with a focus on Latino students and families in Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra. He is also a first-year Report for America corps member. Es bilingüe, su familia es de Puerto Rico, y ama los tostones de su padre más que nada.
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