Summertime Fun 2019

This summer, along with the Ceramic Stories gardening and storytelling sessions (more on those soon), I’ve done a pop-up park event with the New York Restoration Project and ran a planting-sensory table at Art in The Park’s autism family fun day.

I love having the opportunity to work outside in the summer, it’s a nice change of pace from classrooms and opens up whole new forms of engagement.

At the Sherman Creek pop-up park event, I set up a community mural for people to fill out.

I used a long roll of white butcher paper, glued on a green construction paper stem, yellow center, and asked “What makes Inwood Bloom?” Admittedly, I got some help from NYRP's education with the lettering since I don't have the neatest handwriting.

The activity being to fill out the flower with people's favorite things about the uptown community. I pre-cut petals of teal, red, and pink for people to write their answers and then glue on, creating a mural of flower petals that extended across the paper. Some of the most common answers were “the people” and “the parks” and I’m inclined to agree.

Photo of art mural on fold out table. The mural is on a long white sheet of paper and covered with “flower petals” in red, teal, and pink all with writing on it that is indiscernible at this distance. “What makes Inwood Bloom” is written in multi-colored large letter up top. On the mural can also be seen some writing and doodles. The table has some rocks on it, holding the paper, supplies, and other objects down in the wind.

Photo of art mural on fold out table. The mural is on a long white sheet of paper and covered with “flower petals” in red, teal, and pink all with writing on it that is indiscernible at this distance. “What makes Inwood Bloom” is written in multi-colored large letter up top. On the mural can also be seen some writing and doodles. The table has some rocks on it, holding the paper, supplies, and other objects down in the wind.

For Art in the Park’s Autism Family Fun Day I ran a table with flower pot painting and planting. It was a condensed version of the three-week Ceramic Stories programs I run with NYRP. Since this was a one day event I had families come and paint the pots, not necessarily creating a story, just having fun.

Once the painting was done I left them to dry and told the families to come back in a few minutes to do the planting. There was a lot to do at the fun day, so it was an easy enough request. There was grilling going on (including black bean burgers for the veggies like me!), non-profits tabling, sensory spaces, and a table full of free books that was run by a speech therapist.

Autism Family Fun day grill set up, families and children are in the foreground of a shot of a food line. Tables in the background have the food on them and in the top right of the photo the grill master cooks while smoke can be seen coming off the grill.

Autism Family Fun day grill set up, families and children are in the foreground of a shot of a food line. Tables in the background have the food on them and in the top right of the photo the grill master cooks while smoke can be seen coming off the grill.

Inflatable, plastic swimming pool with an inflatable palm tree in the middle of it situated on a piece of asphalt. The pool is filled with water-bead sensory materials.

Inflatable, plastic swimming pool with an inflatable palm tree in the middle of it situated on a piece of asphalt. The pool is filled with water-bead sensory materials.

When they were dry and the families came back, I had the kids add the soil, seeds (marigolds or poppies), a little bit of water, and then sent them on their way with some care instructions. The soil and seeds for the planting were donated by Urban Garden Center, an amazing garden store in East Harlem. If you’re in NYC check them out next time you have any gardening needs!

Entrance to the store “Urban Garden Center” The store's name is in large green block letters on a wooden frame with the word “Urban” being the largest. In the background can be seen plants and garden supplies such as fencing as well as signs denoting the stores hours and sales.

Entrance to the store “Urban Garden Center” The store's name is in large green block letters on a wooden frame with the word “Urban” being the largest. In the background can be seen plants and garden supplies such as fencing as well as signs denoting the stores hours and sales.

The event was a huge success! Shawnique, the Art in the Park director, had one-hundred people signed up on the eventbrite and I imagine most, if not all, showed up along with families who came off the street when they heard the fun! We went through all the pots and paint over the course of the day and a lot of families left with new plants to care for!

Events like these makes the summers so fun, but it also makes them fly by! The second session of Ceramic Stories will be starting next week in Sherman Creek and it’s hard to believe that’s already here!

Painted flower pots arranged on plates dry beside a tree. There are names on the plates that denote whose pot is whose, but the writing is difficult to discern at this distance. In the middle of the pots are two large bags of soil. In the background can be seen a sidewalk chalk welcome to Autism Family Fun Day.

Painted flower pots arranged on plates dry beside a tree. There are names on the plates that denote whose pot is whose, but the writing is difficult to discern at this distance. In the middle of the pots are two large bags of soil. In the background can be seen a sidewalk chalk welcome to Autism Family Fun Day.


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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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