Arts in the Schools Week!

When I was little, I remember making my sister play school with me. I’m pretty sure she hated it, but I was always pretty good at convincing her to do things my way.

Like that time I convinced her to give me all of her dimes since they were smaller, and therefore obviously less desirable, than my pennies in exchange.

I would have her write things and do simple math problems that she could understand. When that got boring, I started teaching her algebra. She was about 5 years old. She actually caught on fast.

I remember my mother being worried that I was confusing her, but as I have discovered throughout life, kids tend to deal with challenges better than we expect. As long as we phrase things simply for them and spark their interest.

I was honored to be invited to participate in Arts in the Schools Week this past week. Monday through Thursday, I visited South Penn Elementary School to teach an hour-long writing workshop with the theme of Japanese fairytales.

Though I am ridiculously tired, I am very pleased with the way the classes went. On top of that, I was actually paid to be there! Which is obviously a very good thing.

I began the session with a quick introduction and an interactive overview of Japanese culture. Then I read two versions of stories about the Chin Chin Kobakama while the kids followed along. The story selection seemed to be a hit since it is so different.

Then I explained to them how I start writing.

I usually start with a “what if” question or a “I wonder how that would/does work” thought and go from there, making things up on paper. I gave them one example from my short-story-that-needs-to-be-a-novel, The Murcep People, and also how the sea became salty. I gave them some ideas based off the story I read, like changing the point of view, then let them loose.

I love the performance of teaching! Making funny voices, pretending to whisper or making jokes.
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I tried to draw a map to show the general location of Japan, which ended up with Europe as a swirly ball and Japan as a banana off of the eastern cost of a big, blobby China.
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I had the kids sit on the floor so it was a less formal setting.

One interesting thing about South Penn is that it is built in the 1970s style of open classrooms with few interior walls. I was in one of the few multi-purpose rooms that was actually enclosed. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about open classrooms. I loved how the “library” was at the center of the entire second floor, so books were extremely present.

Everyone worked hard on their stories. A couple of them really stood out, like Why the Firefly Lights Up, How the Chin Chin Kobakama Got Their Job, Why Pigs Taste So Good, and The Real Story of Dragons and Knights.

I also made sure to plug my free workshops offered through Tri-State Community School for the Arts. Some of the kids said they were interested in coming, and I promised to send the reading instructor more information.

One little boy, who carries his notebooks full of stories around with him everywhere, wanted to know more about getting his stories published. So I made up a quick handout for him Wednesday night, and he met with me for a special conference Thursday morning.

I also followed up with children on Wednesday morning since time seemed to fly away. We could easily have taken another half hour. The reading specialist even mentioned the possibility of having me come back to do more workshops!

Another little boy was so enthusiastic about Japan, that I was a little intimidated. He is apparently very bright. He rattled off names and facts I didn’t have a clue about, like exactly how Japanese houses were the first ones for be earthquake-proof. His story was fantastic.

My first thought with both of those little boys, the writer and the savant, was one of concern. Because I know how much their lives are probably gonna suck. And I also know how closely creativity and genius fly to crazy and substance abuse.

I had an overwhelming urge to protect them somehow.

I saw bits and pieces of me, and it made me sad. I really hope they turn up at one of my workshops, so I can check in with them.

For the first two days, while I was still working the kinks out of my presentation, I left time at the end for kids to share their stories…but by the time Wednesday rolled around, everyone was so intent on the writing I didn’t have the heart to pull the plug until the last-minute. I really wished I would have been able to read, or better yet listen, to everyone’s story.

Free May Events: “Make Your Own Story”

Tri-State Community School for the Arts

Tri-State Community School for the Arts

Looking for FREE activities for your children? This free drop-in workshop on Saturday, May 28, 2011 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm focuses on storytelling for young students and includes opportunities for students to verbally tell stories or tell a story through pictures as well as write a story down. Held at the Tri-State Community School for the Arts, 115 Baltimore Street, Cumberland, MD, and geared toward elementary school children up to age 16, this workshop will also be relevant for Pre-K and pre-reading/writing students. Story prompts, pencils, crayons, collage materials, and other things to make a story will be on-hand for children to create their own story. No registration is necessary, simply drop-in and create!

Parental supervision is encouraged.

Parking and direct entrance available in the back on the alley (Dexter Place).

The workshop will be taught by our creative writing instructor, Tiffany A. Turbin Santos, who has years of experience in working with children of all ages in a variety of settings. Currently, she is studying poetry for an MFA degree at Carlow University in Pittsburgh and has had work published in several literary journals including the Backbone Mountain Review, a regional literary journal. She also teaches developmental writing at Potomac State College. For more information, visit her website: www.cranberryjade.com.

A variety of writing and art classes are offered at Tri-State Community School for the Arts. Registration for summer and fall classes is available on-line NOW at www.tristatearts.com or call (301) 876-1562 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (301) 876-1562      end_of_the_skype_highlighting for more information.

This is the press release for the third of this year’s free children’s workshops I am teaching at Tri-State CSA. I will also be hosting a kids table June 4 for the Plein Air event Downtown as well as other dates TBA. Keep an eye out!

FREE event for children in Cumberland: “Make Your Own Story”

Tri-State Community School for the Arts

Tri-State Community School for the Arts


Looking for FREE activities for your children? This free drop-in workshop on Saturday, March 26, 2011 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm focuses on storytelling for young students and includes opportunities for students to verbally tell stories or tell a story through pictures as well as write a story down. Held at the Tri-State Community School for the Arts, 115 Baltimore Street, Cumberland, MD, and geared toward elementary school children up to age 16, this workshop will also be relevant for Pre-K and pre-reading/writing students. Story prompts, pencils, crayons, collage materials, and other things to make a story will be on-hand for children to create their own story. No registration is necessary, simply drop-in and create!

The workshop will be taught by our creative writing instructor, Tiffany A. Turbin Santos, who has years of experience in working with children of all ages in a variety of settings. Currently, she is studying poetry for an MFA degree at Carlow University in Pittsburgh and has had work published in several undergraduate literary journals and the Backbone Mountain Review, a regional literary journal. She also teaches developmental writing at Potomac State College. For more information, visit her website: www.cranberryjade.com.

A variety of writing and art classes are offered at Tri-State Community School for the Arts. Registration for summer and fall classes is available on-line NOW at www.tristatearts.com or call (301) 876-1562 for more information.

This is the press release for the first of this year’s free children’s workshops I am teaching at Tri-State CSA. Other dates are April 23 and May 28, both from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.

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