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Spark! ignites preschoolers’ creativity at Springville Center for the Arts

CUT OUT FOR LEARNING — Some of the Spark! kids show off the puppets they made, during an exploratory summer workshop. Photos submitted by the Springville Center for the Arts.

SPRINGVILLE — Where there’s a spark, there’s fire. Seth Wochensky, executive director of the Springville Center for the Arts, is working to turn that creative spark into a blaze, with the introduction of Spark! a new educational program designed for kids ages 2 – 5.

“Our mission is to provide creative programming, for all ages, and we realized we really weren’t doing anything for preschoolers,” Wochensky said.

That realization led to a group of parents and children meeting with the theater interns at the SCA, twice a week, all summer, to figure out how what Wochensky called “the natural creativity of children” could be harnessed into a children’s workshop.

Spark! grew out of those summer workshops and a series of meetings with those parents and is intended to improve overall learning and creative problem-solving skills, through contact with the arts.

The program is influenced by the approach used in the Reggio Emilia region of Italy, which stresses play, curiosity, long-term projects instead of subjects, the many languages of children, peer-to-peer learning, teachers as partners, the learning environment and respect for the potential of the child.

“From an arts perspective, the results of that program have been, frankly, remarkable,” Wochensky said. “But we’re looking at it as using the arts to teach methods of communication and those projects to help encourage those creative impulses.”

Pictured, at left: A preschooler uses safety scissors to cut a chunk of clay, during this past summer’s workshops.

Spark! is cooperative in nature, and parents of participating children are not only involved in the program as assistants, but required to provide governance and attend regular meetings. Parents who cannot provide approximately 12 hours of in-class time, over the course of the semester, will be invited to assist in other ways.

“We’d love to work with other preschools, but right now, it’s really driven more for parents who are stay-at-home parents, because it is so cooperative,” Wochensky said, of the hands-on nature of the workshops.

“It’d be nice to work with kids in local preschools, but right now, we’re focusing on building capacity and getting our ducks in a row.”

Katie Kelly, formerly of the Burchfield Penney Arts Center and the new SCA education coordinator, will oversee the program, in consultation with a parental advisory board.

Spark! will link current programming at SCA to topics explored in the program. This may include locally produced content, such as plays or exhibits but also, with the increasing frequency of visiting artists–in-residence, the program will pair artists with preschoolers.

The program was a recipient of a $500 Springville-Griffith Community Education Foundation mini-grant, this summer. Funds will be used to buy easels, musical instruments and other toddler-friendly art supplies.

Some of the programs parents dreamed up, during this summer’s meeting and brainstorming period were healthy eating, cooking, dress-up and drama, field trips and multi-generational involvement.

Wochensky said the program can be tailored to the ages and number of children Spark! receives, and that it can be highly individualized, depending on that response.

“Over the summer, we had a good range, and it worked out, but it depends what we get,” he added. “Right now, we’re not going to complain, if we have smaller numbers. That lets us work out the kinks, as we continue to implement.”

The SCA has two dedicated workshop spaces that are currently under construction. One, to be located at Art’s Café on 5 East Main St., will be designed for messy projects and will include a full pottery studio. The other, located at the center’s main building, will serve as the regular location. For now, the program will meet at Arts Underground, located at 66 East Main St. in Springville.

A registration form is available online at www.SpringvilleArts.org. For more information, contact Kelly at 592-9038.

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