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During the summer months, Weber State University teams up with Ogden City, Nurture the Creative Mind, and Recreation, Art, Museums, Parks, or RAMP, to bring the children of the Ogden community the Arts in the Park program.
The Arts in the Park program offers children of all ages a chance to express themselves through creative elements such as art, music and dance. Volunteers meet Monday through Friday to bring participants new projects. The program is held at a different park every week and offered free of charge, in order to reach a broader spectrum of community members.
Each weekday brings a different theme. Mondays are devoted to visual art, Tuesdays and Wednesdays offer music and dance, and Thursday is puppets and theater.
As an addition to the program’s dance, visual arts and music, WSU’s Metaphor staff has begun working with the children on Fridays to help develop language skills and write poetry.
“With art, you think of music and dance and visual; that’s easy for kids of all ages,” said Jan Hamer, Metaphor adviser and English professor at WSU. “But how do you get kids involved with using language? The challenge was to think of ways to basically have kids writing poetry or poetry-like things, so I was involved in the planning stages of figuring out ways to get kids of all ages — because there are kids starting at preschool age, all the way up to junior high or early high school — involved in creative use of language.”
Rather than sit the children down with pencils and paper to write, the volunteers have made poetry writing much more interactive.
“We have four stations,” Hamer said. “The coolest to me is the refrigerator magnet one. The people in the art department built six panels and painted them with magnetic paint. We can make our own words on magnets and then the kids can build poems every week and we take pictures. One of the helpers writes them down on the poem on a card for the kids to take home. They come up with some really cool stuff.”
Metaphor is a team of WSU students working to create a collaboration of student poetry, short fiction, research, music and art that is given to students for free each year. Hamer said she also likes to have Metaphor students involved in the community throughout the year. The staff has previously headed a book drive for local elementary schools.
“We collected enough books for each child to take home a book, and there were about 850 kids,” Hamer said. “That’s the kind of thing that we like to be involved in, and we thought that the Arts in the Park would be a great way to see who is out in the community and learn what they’re interested in and see what needs there are.”
Hamer said she believes there can be a lack of language exposure for many children and that the Arts in the Park program is one way to remedy that.
“I feel like there need to be lots of opportunities for kids to be exposed the wonder of language,” Hamer said. “It’s easy to see the wonder of dance or visual art or feel the wonder of movement and hear music, but to get involved with language is a little harder.”
Those seeking more information on the Arts in the Park program or volunteering can e-mail [email protected] or visit community.weber.edu/artsinthepark. For more information about Metaphor, students and community members can e-mail Hamer at [email protected].