Youth sample ‘wild things,’ take lessons on the road
Nature walks just steps from the neighborhood’s best-traveled thoroughfares. Writing sessions in an historic private downtown library. Creating stories to accompany a fall photo exhibition. The sights and sounds of summer at WordPlay Cincy are rich with opportunities for learning.
The Northside non-profit that builds diverse communities through innovations in education year-round expanded summer programming to eight weeks this year. Programs are running now through July 28.
“Our success last year, in particular, convinced us that our summer programs meet an important need for students and families,” says WordPlay Executive Director Libby Hunter.
“This year,” she adds, “we’ve really raised the bar in terms of our offerings.”
She points to the volunteer efforts of neighbor and naturalist Greg Torres, who leads WordPlay’s Summer Scholars and dedicated volunteer tutors on weekly nature walks as they discover that even in the heart of the city, the natural world is never far away.
After a recent session, Summer Scholars took time to hear and read the Maurice Sendak classic, “Where the Wild Things Are” from the cool of WordPlay’s headquarters on the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Blue Rock.
“Every day, we have dedicated time for everyone at WordPlay to ‘drop everything and read,’” Hunter says. She notes that not only does regular reading lead to gains in learning in and out of the classroom, it also creates powerful habits and sense of calm amid the stresses of daily life.
Students in first through eighth grades can still participate in WordPlay activities, even if they didn’t sign up for the Summer Scholar program, Hunter says. WordPlay Saturdays, which run through July 22, are open to all on a drop-in basis. From noon until 2 p.m., students take part in a Young Writers Circle, which includes a discussion on a specific theme each week. From 2-4 p.m., students can get help with summer homework or just relax in a tub and read a book or two—or even three!
High-school WordPlay students are already engaged in powerful community projects that will lead to publications and exhibitions this fall. With 22 students enrolled from 11 different high schools, the summer WordUP is a model of creativity in action. Cincinnati poet laureate, who also happens to be WordPlay’s Writer in Residence, Pauletta Hansel, is leading the group as they write stories, poems and real-life experiences. She provides expert guidance and support for participants whose work will be eligible to be featured in WordPlay’s first teen anthology this fall as well as competitive entries in the Books By The Banks’ second annual writing contest. An added bonus? Each session takes place at the Mercantile Library downtown, an historic landmark rich with literary history.
“We are proud to give our teens this amazing opportunity to write in such a beautiful location, to learn from such a generous and accomplished teacher and community leader and, at the same time, to create in such a supportive environment,” Hunter says.
Teens have yet another opportunity to create work for public display during WordPlay’s collaboration with neighbors at Chase Public and the Cincinnati Museum Center. Working with a carefully curated collection of historic photos from the 20th century, teens will respond to the images in poetic form. Then they will take those poems public during readings and incorporate them into fall’s regional FotoFocus exhibition.
“This is an exciting opportunity to grow our community and expand our reach,” Hunter explains. “Working with trusted partners at Chase Public and Cincinnati Museum Center allows us to expose our students to a wide range of creative professionals. This is a very real way to expand their horizons in ways that will last a lifetime.”
An easy way to keep up with WordPlay’s progress every day, and to sample the stories of our students, teachers and volunteers, is to “like” WordPlay Cincy on Facebook. Online, you can find updates on programs, great “cute reports” on daily great behavior and creativity and, best of all, ways to be a part of the WordPlay action.
From signing up for our next volunteer training session (mandatory for new volunteers) to making an online contribution to keep creative programming at WordPlay going strong, getting involved is as easy as logging on to a computer.
This month, WordPlay celebrates our online donors—in addition to the friends and foundations and countless other supporters who make all we do possible. Thank you!
Sat 7/16, 10:30 am-noon: Volunteer training! Email Kirsten@wordplaycincy.org to RSVP.
Keep up with the latest WordPlay news by liking the neighborhood non-profit on Facebook: WordPlay Cincy.