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Artists in the making

Students at WWG Elementary School let their creative juices flow during annual Prairie Winds Arts Festival

October 26, 2012
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

WALNUT GROVE - Westbrook-Walnut Grove students unleashed their creative energy at the 17th annual Elementary Prairie Winds Arts Festival Thursday at the Walnut Grove school.

The kindergarten through sixth-grade students were given numerous opportunities to engage in a variety of activities, from pottery to rubber stamping, to weaving, drawing, printing, karate, music, dance and more.

"It's fun to see the creative side of kids," said Merna Malmberg, a volunteer who assisted children at the first-time printing session presented by the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota.

Article Photos

Photo by Jenny Kirk
Under the watchful eye of Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota representative Kristin Harsma, Westbrook-Walnut Grove first-graders Cassie Hartson, right, and Gavin Shaw roll out some paint and get ready to begin printing a copy of their textured plate project while at the 17th annual Elementary Prairie Winds Arts Festival Thursday in Walnut Grove.

After adhering a variety of textured items, such as buttons, scraps of paper, puzzle pieces and feathers, to their individual papers, students then wrapped their projects in aluminum foil to create a "plate." Once a student selected a color and spread out the paint on the large glass square, that student could begin printing, or basically make a copy of the textured project.

"It was good," first-grader Cassie Hartson said. "It was a neat idea."

The best part, according to some presenters and volunteers, is that no two projects ever turn out exactly the same. Presenter Tina Richards said that no two clay coil pots that the students create ever look the same.

"That's never going to happen," she said. "Some rush through it and other take their time, but no two are ever alike."

Richards has been an arts presenter since the festival began 17 years ago. While she used to do dream catchers, weaving and book-making, Richards said she has had the kids work with clay the past few years.

"The clay comes from the ground," she said to a session of fourth-graders Thursday. "There's a layer of dirt and then there is clay under that. Sometimes, there is sand underneath that, too."

Richards explained that the white clay, which appeared gray in color, will actually turn white after it is fired in the kiln.

"It takes about 12-18 hours to fire, depending on how full the kiln is," Richards said. "The coil pots have to dry out so much beforehand, though, otherwise the moisture in the clay will cause the projects to blow up. I'll wait for about two weeks to fire them up."

Before the group started, Richards demonstrated the process, including "wedging" to knock the air bubbles out of the clay and "gluing," which is the process of adding water to seal the clay together.

"It's fun," fourth-grader GaoHmong Yang said.

Alexus Yang also thought making a coil pot was interesting.

"It's easy," Alexus Yang said. "I'm excited to see it after it comes out of the kiln."

Substitute teacher Terri Strangeland also commented about the uniqueness of each project.

"All the mothers will love them," she said.

The fourth-graders had the opportunity to try out karate and attend other sessions as well.

"It's going good," Alexus Yang said.

"I've done a lot of stuff (Thursday)," GaoHmong Yang said.

In another classroom, third-graders were trying their hand at rubber stamping under the guidance of presenter Angie Horkey.

"I chose to do a lizard," Anna Lee said.

Lee's classmates, Kayla Freeburg and Isabelle Locke, each chose the turtle stamp.

"It was cute," Freeburg said.

All of the students also had the chance to create a pumpkin card.

"First you have to stamp an orange oval," Locke said. "Then you stamp the face on top."

Students finished the card up by inserting a Tootsie Pop sucker inside and then adding curly ribbons to the outside.

"Some of these kids have never done anything like this before," Horkey said. "Some maybe never will again."

In addition to interacting with each other and using their creativity, Horkey also liked the fact that the kids had to keep moving around.

"They're not just sitting there," she said.

As he had done at the beginning of the day, first-time presenter "Lonesome Ron" (Ron Affolter), King of the Valley Yodelers, entertained the entire elementary school at the conclusion of the day. During the daytime sessions, Affolter, who is from Mankato, told stories and performed songs about cowboys and also encouraged the students to read.

"I want them to be part of the Reading Posse," he said. "If they're interested in cowboys or anything else, they should read about it."



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