Margret Onneken spent many years educating her charges at Scout Island Nature Centre on all the interesting things that grow and live in our natural habitat.

The end of an era at Scout Island Nature Centre

How many children can one woman nurture in a 21 year career?

How many children can one woman nurture in a 21 year career?

How many little hands can she hold on adventurous walks in search of baby geese?  How many three-to-five year olds have planted their first flower seeds under her patient guidance?

Or painted their first masterpiece, made their first Mother’s Day card or Christmas ornament?

And how many of those children, now grown into nature-loving adults, couldn’t wait to bring their own children to Scout Island’s Discovery Pre-school so Margret Onneken could work her magic?

As Margret retires at the end of the 2013/14 season, she takes with her a mountain of memories, affection and gratitude.

Staff, directors and well-wishers gathered for tea on June 18 to honour Margret and her friend Nancie Eastman, who also retires after many years of cleaning the pre-school space.

Former students Patrick Newsome and Caitlin Langford, now serving as summer staff for their second year, thanked her for getting them off to a great start.

Former pre-school assistants Marcia Aitkin and Barb Langford were on hand to add their warm wishes.

We presented Margret with a photo of a favourite spot on the island, and small album of pre-school moments. To the inevitable question “What’s next,” Margret glowed to report that her granddaughter, Bronwyn, is with her for two weeks, and she looks forward to leisurely mornings.

We may be able to lure her back to Scout Island for occasional programs, but she warned that she will not be leaving the house when it’s -35C out.

But we know Margret…she will never lack for things to do.

This typical comment from our facebook group captures many of the sentiments we hear: “Margret was a perfect preschool teacher in every way. Her gentle but firm way has guided thousands of children…I’m proud to say we are in that number.

Rachel continues to speak highly of her preschool time there and though we are sad to see Margret retire we know it’s well deserved. Thank you for your part in helping raise Rachel!”

We’re pleased that Karen Haseldine will be running a pre-school next year, four mornings a week.

It’s already fully booked, but we’re still taking names for the waiting list.

Plans are underway for the school district to operate a nature-based kindergarten here beginning in 2015.

This is a big step in our ongoing project of increasing nature education in our local schools.

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