It has been quite a challenge this summer for the Winfield Arts & Humanities to plan fun activities for children of all ages and adults.

But the Winfield Arts & Humanities staff and instructors have refused to let COVID-19 interfere with their plans.

They came up with some clever ideas to keep kids and their parents entertained throughout the summer.

"This spring, we gave away 'Friday Fun Packs' with activities for kids and their parents to do while we were all staying home," Becky Waldorf said, art education coordinator with Winfield Arts & Humanities. "After planning in-person classes for the children this summer, the whole structure changed, and we chose to do online classes instead of seeing the children."

For a small fee packets could be purchased. These packets or kits had been assembled for each class, and a coordinating video and instructions sheet for each week were posted in the Winfield Arts & Humanities 'Google Classroom.'

"We, the children enrolled in the classes and parents, have learned a lot about making videos and uploading them, as well as how to use the Google Classroom," Waldorf added.

The staff with Winfield Arts & Humanities has sold almost 200 kits for the summer classes, and more than 85 percent of the kits sold have been active with the online component.

While promoting online learning was a smart move for the Winfield Arts & Humanities, it left children feeling somewhat isolated. Waldorf said it also didn't seem as rewarding and fun as previous summers due to the lack of in-person interaction among children and their parents.

"Seeing the children's faces and watching them getting excited about activities are a lot more rewarding than sitting in front of a webcam making a video. I believe children need more and more opportunities to use their hands to create something beautiful and express their feelings," she said. "I think children love to create things. They also enjoy new experiences, sometimes with a little nudging."

However, by offering the kits, children and their parents could continue creating arts and crafts at home.

The staff has taken care of all the supplies and necessities, which pleased parents because they could avoid the hassle of gathering the supplies and doing the planning themselves.

Waldorf said she would have liked to teach more classes this summer, but she was happy to have taught a class called "Bloom!" In this class, students made paper flower crafts for the "Nature-Themed Week." She also coordinated a class with another teacher for the "Traveling Along Week" and gave a class on flying objects.

Waldorf has one additional class forthcoming for Aug. 3-7. The theme for that week is "Arts & Crafts Tied to Books." Waldorf chose the book, "The Quiltmaker's Gift." Children will experiment with quilt-based crafts.

Another craft/book tie-in for the last week will be "Explore the World of Leo Lionni" taught by Kylee Brenn. At a cost of $5, this class is geared toward children ages 5-9. It will involve hands-on sensory activities paired with the book tie-in found on YouTube. 

Kids ages 2-5 will have a blast with the "Pete, the Cat" series. Cost for this class taught by Deb Zimmerman is $5.

Kylee Brenn is a full-time special education teacher at Lowell Elementary, in Winfield. She is currently employed through Cowley County Special Services Cooperative and USD465. Brenn, who has a love for educating children and parents, has been teaching in Winfield for 17 years.

"I began teaching classes with Winfield Arts & Humanities the summer of 2018," she said. "I teach mostly toddler classes and cooking classes, but can pick up classes that the Arts & Humanities needs me to teach."

Brenn also agrees with Waldorf that this particular summer has been a little different for everyone. But everyone rose up to all barriers, problems and challenges, mainly due to the coronavirus. The take-home packets allowed families to create together.

"Parents have taken advantage of the activities Winfield Arts & Humanities has provided," Brenn said. "It is beneficial to families that there are new activities/themes each week, and that they can pick up the old activities as well."

She added that even several grandparents have gathered activity bags for when they visit their grandchildren. 

This summer, eight themes were provided by the Winfield Arts & Humanities. They are "Celebrations" (Father's Day, July Fourth, etc.), Bugs, Fun In Space, Animal Fun, Famous Artists, Traveling Along, Upcycle Art and Art With Books.

"I think it is very important for children to have these experiences to get their brain and bodies moving," she said. "I think arts and crafts appeal to both children and adults because they offer a sort of familiar routine, but allow one to step outside of the box. Young children, even older children and adults, are extremely receptive to learning about famous artists and art projects when they are taught in a fun, exciting manner. Delivery is the key."

Waldorf said there are still several kits available from the summer classes. She is also looking forward to instructing fall classes, though it may be too early to know what classes will be offered because of COVID-19.

"Our plan for the fall is to offer more 'Friday Fun Bags' with activities for all ages," she said. "We are looking at an 'Around the World Theme.' I am also working on some adult classes including 'Beginning Cake Decorating,' 'Jewelry,' 'Wreath-Making' and 'Embroidery.' "

Waldorf, who had been the previous owner/co-owner of A Piece of Cake, in Winfield, had always enjoyed creating things during her early school years. A teacher at Trinity Lutheran School, where Waldorf attended, highly encouraged creativity. She has taken classes in tatting, stained glass, drawing, painting and jewelry. She continues to be involved with many other art projects.

"I feel that doing some sort of creative activity can be a release and help bring some joy to the day and let our minds focus on something fun and rewarding," she stated. "I want to stress how hard we are trying to keep art activities available for all ages. We are always considering safety, creativity and enjoyment. People need to interact to create. We will continue to strive to provide opportunities to do that. I should also add that we usually have adult ceramics and stained glass classes in the fall, and will continue to do that if we feel that it can be done safely."

Those wanting more information about take-home kits, classes and what could be offered in the fall may contact Winfield Arts & Humanities at (620)-221-2161. Emails also may be sent to winfieldarts@gmail.com, waldorf.becky82@gmail.com or kylee_brenn@usd465.com.

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