Block Party!

With the school year looming ahead, I wanted to take some time to reflect on one of my favorite NYC summertime events: block parties!

I’ve had a blast volunteering at block parties in Harlem and Washington Heights. I’ve run activities tables for kids ranging from storytelling to magic wand making.

Donnie Welch, young caucasian male stands behind a table in a white T-shirt. On the table are a bubble machine, story book, and supplies for children’s crafts. In the background can be seen apartment buildings and people in costume for  Wizard of Oz  party theme.

Donnie Welch, young caucasian male stands behind a table in a white T-shirt. On the table are a bubble machine, story book, and supplies for children’s crafts. In the background can be seen apartment buildings and people in costume for Wizard of Oz party theme.

 There’s an amazing, hectic energy in this work. It can go from me standing around to six kids all asking for help with a craft in a matter of seconds!

Unlike working in a classroom or through program where there’s a set time and attendance list, block party work really keeps me on my toes!

I also like to come a little early and volunteer with the set up when I can. As a program provider in the community, I think it’s important to be involved in events I don't plan.

If all I did was show up to the garden or roll into the library for my half-hour sessions that would technically be enough (since that’s all I’m asked), but putting in the extra effort shows the families I’m working with that I’m here to stay, not just parachute in for my programs.

Plus, it can be fun! When I worked the West 150th block party I showed up early and they put me on letter board duty!

Big white letter board sign with black and red lettering. Sign has a red star at the top and reads “ 10 years / of heart / brains / & courage”. The sign is on a rocky surface with some plants and mulch from the garden visible behind it.

Big white letter board sign with black and red lettering. Sign has a red star at the top and reads “ 10 years / of heart / brains / & courage”. The sign is on a rocky surface with some plants and mulch from the garden visible behind it.

Block parties are a great space for working with whole families. In programs, parents sometimes feel like they should sit out unless asked to be directly involved. But at the parties, everything happens so fast and the energy so high! I've had parents who are just as interested in the activity as their child and who sit down to really engage in wonderful ways with their kid around completing the craft. That's where it's at!

If you're out and about in the city next summer and  see me working a booth come by and say hello!

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Summer Fun

Summer school just finished for me at Rebecca School, so now I'm on a three week break. When I return it'll only be twice a week to run workshops which is exciting and a little duanting. It's going to be a big change both professionally and personally for me.  I've taken some time to pause and reflect over the break and in that reflection, I've realized what a special time summer can be for teachers.

Summer is an amazing opportunity for experimentation and change.

Long white table full of supplies. In the foreground are paper plates with rainbow colors, a bag of yellow cuts and a black expo marker. Next there’s a green poster board cut to look like a crocodile with an eye drawn, on the green poster paper are scissors and white paper cut to look like teeth. The table extends with more rainbow plates in the background.

Long white table full of supplies. In the foreground are paper plates with rainbow colors, a bag of yellow cuts and a black expo marker. Next there’s a green poster board cut to look like a crocodile with an eye drawn, on the green poster paper are scissors and white paper cut to look like teeth. The table extends with more rainbow plates in the background.

 It was over a summer session that I first ran workshops at Rebecca School and it was summer time when I first really tested the Sensorimotor Poetry Workshop model. The lack of academic pressures makes it a season for discovery and even rediscovery.

Outside of school walls, summer is also the time of year when I work with the New York Restoration Project, or NYRP, running programming in their gardens! This is always a lot of fun, it's nice to be outdoors and to have an opportunity to do some nature play. This summer the workshops are "Ceramic Stories" involving students painting a story onto a pot like Greek pottery[1]. Once the pots are painted they'll plant something hardy in them and take the plants home to have something to grow!

Orange/Brown ceramic pots on a white table cloth with various shades of paint in purple and white pots. Some paintings are visible on the pots, others appear blank. In the background is a vibrant teal slatted fence with red poppies painted on.

Orange/Brown ceramic pots on a white table cloth with various shades of paint in purple and white pots. Some paintings are visible on the pots, others appear blank. In the background is a vibrant teal slatted fence with red poppies painted on.

As a hiker and outdoor enthusiast myself, it's a wonderful opportunity to blend that passion with my poetry and education work. This year I'm running two sessions: one was at the Lucille McClary Wicked Friendship Garden in June and the next one will be in September at the Rodale Pleasant Community Garden.

Flyer for a program called “Ceramic Stories” Cartoonish vines grow from the top, followed by the title in bold yellow letters and the details in smaller white lettering. In the bottom right are logos and finally a border of vines appear to grow up from the bottom. All on a dark green background.

Flyer for a program called “Ceramic Stories” Cartoonish vines grow from the top, followed by the title in bold yellow letters and the details in smaller white lettering. In the bottom right are logos and finally a border of vines appear to grow up from the bottom. All on a dark green background.

Meanwhile, in school, I started a "Shadow Puppet Poetry" unit with a couple of the groups . We've gone and visited the roof playground to catch the sun and trace our full shadows onto poster paper, along with some silly hand-animals made along the way as well.  We also stayed indoors on a rainy day and played with flashlights.

Where exactly this project will lead I'm not sure yet, but it's a ton of fun and is a great body awareness and sensory practice for the students.

With so many amazing things going on over the summer, I'm sure I'll be back in school before I know it! When I am, it'll be the start of a whole new adventure!

Sources & References

[1] #MetKids Blog https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/metkids/2017/greeks-vs-amazons

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