As Robin the Boy Wonder might say, everyone had a bat-tastic time Wednesday afternoon at the St. Gregory's pre-school.
In anticipation of the arrival of Halloween in a couple of weeks, the children, ages 3 and 4, have been learning about all kinds of autumn-related subjects from pumpkins to acorns to why leaves fall from trees.
This week especially things got a little spooky with a lesson on spiders, which the youngsters found out have eight legs, tiny hairs, can bite you, and move about by crawling and jumping.
But the big thrill came yesterday when retired art teacher Saundra Harney showed up for her weekly visit dressed in black and wearing a construction paper bat hat, which the children spent the next half-hour or so replicating.
Harney, whose granddaughter Olive Madden is a member of the class, also brought along small chunks of string cheese and a bag of chow mein noodles from which the kids fashioned small — and quite tasty — spider-shaped snacks.
The craft session is a weekly event for St. Greg's pre-schoolers, thanks to Harney's willingness to volunteer skills honed as a high school art teacher in Knoxville, Iowa.
Both she and her husband, Rich Harney, a retired Hy-Vee store director, now live in Maryville, and Saundra said that while spending time in her granddaughter's pre-school gives her a chance to put her classroom skills to good use, the sessions are mostly about having a good time.
"I love to do it, and I love little kids," she said. "This is my opportunity to get back into school, but now it's just for fun."
And fun, indeed, was the operative word as the children glued together their bat hats, flapped their arms and pretended to be flying around the room.
Harney, who got an assist Wednesday from her daughter NyEela Harney, Olive's mom, said her lessons usually include some kind of simple handicraft project as well as a bit of food.
One previous session, for example, was based on acorns, the shape of which the children copied using Hershey's kisses and butterscotch candy.
"The kids are so eager to learn," Harney said as the class lined up for a group bat-hat portrait. "I just love coming here."