Saturday, June 14, 2003

Program teaches kids using creativity

MMOM offers arts and academic aid

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] Eight-year-old Samantha Steele looks back to the neck of her guitar as she makes a simple chord during a group guitar class at the Fitton Center in Hamilton on Friday.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
HAMILTON - Throwing pots, planting vegetables, making soup: for more than 100 local youngsters, these summer activities will add up to better reading and math skills.

Thanks to a $1.4 million grant from the Ohio Department of Education, elementary-age students will apply academic basics in creative ways through Mega Mall of the Mind (MMOM).

The program, a collaborative fusion of arts, education and social services, is a new initiative of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts. It kicked off this week and will continue for five years.

"One of our goals will be to help people learn how to live in a pluralistic society through such nontraditional approaches as dance, food, drama and music," said Henry Cepluch, director of the Fitton's Arts in Common program, who helped plan for MMOM. "Among the offerings are academic and arts enrichment, physical activity, health education, technology and career skills, English as a second language, money management and mental health assessments."

The initiative links the Fitton Center with Hamilton's Madison and Jefferson elementary schools, which have large African-American, Hispanic and Appalachian student populations.

Social services are provided by LifeSpan and Living Water Ministry.

While MMOM targets children - the idea is to help students at low-achieving schools meet core academic standards - parents are part of the plan.

"Parents are involved as helpers and volunteers at the school sites and as an essential target population through the adult programming," explained Jackie Quay , coordinator of MMOM and director of the Fitton Center's other educational programs.

The summer effort begins just as Butler County's fine arts center has unveiled its expanded physical facility, which provides additional space for music, visual arts and computer instruction.

Participants attend summer school courses each morning at either Jefferson or Madison, then spend each afternoon in MMOM activities at the Fitton or one of the schools. Visitors also can browse two centuries' worth of artwork currently on loan to the Fitton center.

"We are trying to engage children by demonstrating that learning can be fun, meaningful and creative while steering clear of the drill-and-kill tactics," Quay said.

"Integrating math, science and reading concepts with gardening, cooking, playing board games, learning dance steps, working with clay, designing and making woodworking projects are non-traditional ways for children to learn and apply their knowledge."

MMOM's summer offerings continue through July 9 at Jefferson School and the Fitton Center and through Aug. 15 at Madison School. From July 21 to Aug. 23 the center will provide adult programs and adult-child activities. After-school programs gear up Sept. 29.

The Fitton's popular Arts in Common program is also back this summer. A $100,000 gift from Oxford resident Anne Ruder Bever provided desperately needed support.

"That program was dying for lack of funding until this gift came along. It's a lifesaver," said Fitton Center executive director Rick H. Jones .

"Arts in Common is one of those programs where you can really see appreciation in the faces of the kids."

Arts in Common takes arts instruction to school-age youngsters at 17 community sites throughout Butler County.

"The State of the Arts: a celebration of Ohio's rich artistic heritage" opened June 1 and runs through July 26. The show was organized by the Ohio Arts Council's Riffe Gallery and will tour several galleries in the state during 2003.

The Fitton Center is at 101 S. Monument Ave. in Hamilton. Information: 863-8873 .


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