Children, teens, and grown-ups stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a wide circle. Some looked at their shoes. One little girl giggled to her friend next to her, while others made friendly eye contact across the group. One by one, each shared the high point of their day together.
This unlikely troupe of elementary school students, teenagers volunteering precious summer afternoons, and grown-up tutors giving a few hours each week to guide students through a summer learning experience, is "Connecting the Dots." A daily closing ritual at WordPlay Cincy's Summer Scholars program, students, volunteers and staff reflect on their high points of the day, learning about each other, and a little more about themselves. They discovered everyday things they have in common, all the while pulling the threads that connect them just a bit tighter, each taking turns weaving the social fabric of this learning community.
All were learning something new about their Summer Scholars friends that day last July, friends who happened to range in age from 6-72. They learned that what made one little boy happy about his walk to the community garden is exactly the same thing that a 58-year-old volunteer likes best about her neighborhood. They learned that Drop Everything and Read time was one quiet little girl's favorite part of her afternoon and - surprise! - it was her tutor's favorite part of the day too. They learned that one high school volunteer liked illustrating the story she wrote with her student best of all that day. Everyone nodded in appreciation.
For Summer Scholars, as for all its programs, WordPlay crafts a blend of the Five Elements of its transformative approach: Personal Development, Community Building, Innovative Approaches to Learning, Creative Expression, and Future Orientation. Students learn about themselves, grow healthy relationships, learn experientially, build confidence through self-expression, and set their sights on future accomplishments.
WordPlay will be expanding its Summer Scholars program from 6 to 8 weeks, with sessions beginning June 6. Students entering first grade through eighth grade can enroll in the free program for 2 or 4 days each week, meeting Mondays - Thursdays. Summer Scholars 2016 will include a summer-long PhotoVoice project for all students, using digitial photography to document aspects of their individual identities as well as their shared daily experiences. The weekly lineup includes regular trips to the public library and Farmer's Market, art-making visits from Visionaries + Voices, a walking excursion led by an outdoor educator, daily reading time, and lots of reflective writing to deepen their work through PhotoVoice.
WordPlay Saturdays will continue in full force this summer June 11 - July 23 with drop-in programs from 12 - 4 pm for students in grades K - 8. The Young Writers Circle meets from 12 - 2 pm, hosting a fun array of guest teaching artists, and from 2- 4 pm is Drop Everything and Read time along with homework tables where kids can work on that pesky summer homework, or just have fun diving into educational enrichment activities.
WordPlay has made ground-breaking strides with hundreds of local teenagers since its founding in 2012, and this summer offers two unique writing and spoken word opportunities for high school students. New this year is an exiting collaboration between WordPlay, the Cincinnati Museum Center, Chase Public and the biennial Foto Focus photography exhibit. Teens ages 13 and up can join this poetry and spoken word workshop that will be held for 8 weeks on Mondays from 3-5 pm starting June 6, where they'll work under the guidance of WordPlay Artist-in-Residence Desirae Hosley and Chase Public Executive Director, Scott Holzman, and Jim DaMico, Curator of Photographs and Prints at the Museum Center. Students will first create poems in response to local early 20th century photographs from the Museum Center's archive, and then take their writing to the microphone, transforming the written to spoken in front of a city-wide audience in celebration of Foto Focus in October, 2016.
And now celebrating its fourth year, WordPlay's WordUP program continues its summer writing workshop for teenagers, this year under the direction of WordPlay Writer-in-Residence and Cincinnati Poet Laureate, Pauletta Hansel. WordPlay is honored to announce a new collaboration with community partner The Mercantile Library, who will host the 8-week writing experience on Wednesday afternoons (exact time TBD). WordUP Summer Edition is open to teens from across the city of all writing levels - you do not need to be a school-year WordUP student to join in, and students from all schools are welcome.
As with Summer Scholars, teen workshops are also free, but space is limited.
WordPlay is always looking for energetic, dedicated individuals who believe in making a real difference for our kids - volunteer trainings are held the third Saturday of each month at WordPlay. To learn more about volunteering or how to enroll a student, please visit the website, www.wordplaycincy.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 513-541-0930.
Libby Hunter, Co-Founder and Executive Director of WordPlay Cincy.