It Takes a Village

The culminating festival for the Garden of Fire was a tremendous success from every aspect.

It takes a village,” as they say, and the program and festival could not have happened without all the amazing educators, artists, and community volunteers. We were delighted to have parents join us in celebrating their children’s accomplishments. The youths are the heart and joy of the program with their enthusiasm and eagerness to try new things.

The Garden of Fire: Summer of Water ironically took place during weeks of severe drought and heat in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. Each week of programs centered on topics including nature, growing cycles, healthy food, and art – highlighting the connection to water, importance of potable (drinkable) water, sounds & rhythms of water through music, reliance on water for life on Earth, and water pollution and conservation.

Suddenly, three days before the festival we were surprised with a series of thunderstorms and downpours. The much-needed water finally came! Naturally, we were a bit worried for the festival, BUT the morning of the celebration the dark clouds cleared and the sun shone bright and hot!

Kids reveled in all the water-themed activities, live music, art displays and games which opened and closed with a special ceremony.

In closing, we thank everyone who contributed and we look forward to 2017!

Amy Ruza
Education Programs Coordinator
The Rockwell Museum

A Friendly Plug

We were so pleased to have the Southeast Steuben County Library participate in this year’s Garden of Fire Festival.

Partner in art, Erica Unterman, is an art adventurer currently disguised as a Youth Specialist at the public library.  She designs programs for children of all ages.

For the Garden of Fire Festival she offered something super unique and FUN: squirt gun painting!

Read all about it on the “Teen Tones” blog!>>

Youth Center Update: Hornell Area Concern for Youth

How do you put a value on something as great as the Garden of Fire!?

Our kids absolutely love it!  I must be honest,  I (Paul Shephard, Director of Hornell Area Concern for Youth) have never attempted a blog before but I feel compelled to make it more of a thank you to all involved.

For our agency to be associated with such a wonderful museum as The Rockwell is just so exciting for our staff and our kids! Amy Ruza and  Gigi Alvaré are such a pleasure to work with and have such a great way of connecting with our kids. The initial intro in which Gigi read her story and Amy added the sound effects is always great, and the way they involved the kids as animal characters was awesome.  Then, of course Ian Mclaughlin from Tanglewood bringing in his many animals and educating our kids on this years’ theme  of water was frosting on the cake.

Our kids loved the trip to The Rockwell for the clay animal sculpture project as well. They all commented on loving the messiness of it and how relatively easy it was to sculpt their animals with Amy’s direction.  I tried to make my sculpture in the shape of a buffalo as I am a big Bills fan but the final product resembled some sort of psychotic rabbit… at least I tried!

I would also like to put a “shout out” to Tara Chapman who came to our Canisteo location for the Rain Stick project. She was a great sport to put up with my music and disco lighting for the event… the kids loved her and enjoyed making their own personal rain stick !!   They all made great rain sticks that made beautiful rain noises when used… whereas mine ended up sounding more like a cat in a tornado.

Our trip out to Tanglewood was also very enjoyable. Ian took us on hikes and showed us the many animals there.  The kids loved the Bee presentation, though the giant turtle was their favorite. A big thanks to Sue Spencer for the engaging drum circle that day as well. Our kids stood up and danced like crazy, and Sue never skipped a beat. Well done !

Finally, last week, we took the bus to CareFirst for a natural elements building session with Tony Moretti and Gwen Quigley. They were true professionals, and inspired our kids into making a 7-foot tall water sculpture made from tree bark, branches and other forms of nature in which the water would travel. It reminded me of the old board game Mouse Trap… does that show my age?? The kids were able to saw, hammer, glue and paint their way to the finished product. Many of them said how proud they were to have structured something so massive.

As usual the summer has gone by soooooo swiftly. We are looking forward to the final celebration this Friday!

WindTunnel4Paul Shephard (That’s me on the right!)
Hornell Area Concern for Youth

Creating Fertile Ground for Healing, Growth, and Endless Possibilities

When a child is able to connect an experience in their life to the broader world around them, something magical happens!

There is a moment. An expression. A pause. A light bulb turns on, and a child who is struggling no longer feels alone. They feel safe. They feel understood. That is the moment in which we as counselors and educators can truly make a difference. When that moment combines with laughter, play, and creativity, then the possibilities for healing are endless.

Don’t get me wrong, these experiences are rare. Those of us who work with at-risk youth focus all efforts on creating those kinds of moments, but the truth is that you can’t force them – all you can do is create the space for them to happen. This work is what CareFirst and all of the other Garden of Fire partners are trying to accomplish in our summer programming. In the recent Rain Stick Making workshop led by CareFirst’s Tara Chapman, these moments were abundant.

Wk2Hornell-071_LowRes
Photos courtesy of Dan Gallagher Photography

You can see the look in their eye as they were able to connect their emotional experiences to the world around them, and specifically, to this year’s theme of water. The children were able to talk about their life, times when they had difficult things happen, and how they cope with the intense emotions of life we all feel.  They used the symbol of water and created rain sticks that allowed them to create music and express themselves in a new and unique way.

These kinds of activities are what help young minds grow.

When we as humans combine nature and creativity with a chance to process our emotions and focus on our own well-being, it creates fertile ground for healing, growth, and endless possibilities.

There is no greater blessing than to see this in our youth and to know that the future of tomorrow is being left in the hands of children who have not only expanded their minds, but healed their hearts.

Chelsea E. Ambrose
Counseling Services Manager, CareFirst

“When the earth needs a drink, Mother Nature makes it Rain!”

There is something about the smell that lingers in the air after a rainstorm in the summer time… for me it is extremely calming and refreshing, and it brings back many memories of summers spent playing outside as a child.

Unfortunately, this summer we have had very few rainstorms, meaning far fewer chances to enjoy this experience. However, this week we were lucky enough to receive some much needed rain!

The rain triggered a conversation between myself and a 9-year-old girl. I asked her why she thought rain was important, and her answer was sweet and simple: “It helps everything on the earth, like plants so they are able to grow, and for people to drink!” She then continued with “When the earth needs a drink, Mother Nature makes it rain!”

 The Garden of Fire continues to spark imaginations this year with the theme of WATER.

So far this summer the Corning Youth Center has visited The Rockwell Museum to make clay animal sculptures to protect their gardens, they have made and decorated their own rain sticks while learning about how to cope with their own emotions, and they have visited the Tanglewood Nature Center to go on a hike, meet some of their fascinating animals, and participate in a drumming circle, all while learning about the importance of water.

In each of these activities youth were encouraged to use their imaginations and to be creative. For their animal sculptures at The Rockwell, each youth was asked to choose a specific animal that they themselves could relate to. Some youth chose a bird, some chose snakes, another chose an elephant, and a young girl chose a lion. When asked why she chose a lion, specifically a male lion, she said:

“Because lions are strong, courageous, and fierce, like me!”

These moments are why we love Garden of Fire.

Ashlee Peachey
Laura Richardson Houghton Corning Youth Center

 

Photos courtesy of Dan Gallagher Photography

The Power of Water

This year’s theme is Water, and what a fantastic, flexible, flowing theme for the summer! Water is one of the most attractive of the elements – who doesn’t want to dip their toes in a stream, splash around in a stream, put their hands under a waterfall?

Water is powerful in two ways – it is a dynamic force with unique physical and chemical properties, and it is a constant reminder of our connection to the rest of the life on our planet.

Now, “unique physical and chemical properties” sounds cool to me, but it doesn’t necessarily fall that way on a kid’s ears. The trick to get them turned on to the awesomeness of water is to bring in our animal ambassadors, and encourage the kids to imagine how our animals use, adapt to, or even defy the powers of water in their daily life. The kids know how frigid winter can be here in New York, and how dry a summer drought can be. How do our amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals survive in a constantly changing environment?

The states of matter – solid, liquid, and gas – may not seem that exciting in a textbook. But when kids can see a grey tree frog up close and learn how this tiny creature changes his whole body chemistry to prevent the water in his cells from turning to ice and bursting his cell walls – that adds wonder and awe to what the youth know about two hydrogens and one oxygen molecule.

Talking about and meeting our animals also encourages the kids to reflect on their own bodies, and how important water is to their survival. The water in our cells connects us to the grey tree frog, and to the lettuces and tomatoes growing in the gardens. In each living being on the planet, H20 is circulating. Humans are breathing it out as water vapor; trees are transporting it through xylem and phloem. The Garden of Fire program provides room for kids to appreciate the strength of water in its different physical states, and the inspiration of water as a bond between all living things.

Water unifies, strengthens, and nourishes the children in the program – not just quenching their physical thirst or plumping the peppers they will harvest later, but also provoking questions and inspiring reflection on our responsibilities to each other and to the rest of the life on our planet.

Bridget Sharry
Community Relations Manager
Tanglewood Nature Center and Museum

 

Photos courtesy of Dan Gallagher Photography