S. P. A. R. K. ends summer with guest speakers

MUSCATINE, Iowa–To close out their final week of classes, Muscatine Community School District’s Summer Program for Arts, Recreation, and Knowledge (S. P. A. R. K.) hosted several guest speakers from Muscatine and beyond. The speakers and the activities they lead gave a sense of closure to some of the summer’s activities and offered a new way for students to engage with learning.

Tuesday, July 27 and Wednesday, July 28, Global Education at the Stanley Center brought in Mama Katambwa, an African cultural specialist, to introduce first and second grade students to songs, folktales, and artifacts that originated in Africa. In preparation for the visit, students spent part of their morning academic time learning about Africa through books lent to them by the Stanley Center, videos about the continent, and hands-on projects, such as making kufi caps out of construction paper. They even practiced saying several words in Swahili.

During Mama Katambwa’s visit, she led students in singing traditional songs, accompanied by Muscatine area drummer Lupita Saucedo, acting out famous Anansi the Spider folktales, and even having a parade around the gym at Jefferson Elementary.

“It’s just a fun way to learn about other cultures that they may not otherwise get to learn about,” said second grade teacher Kerry Dalbey.

“They can appreciate and celebrate what that culture has to offer,” added Global Education Program Officer Krista Regennitter. She also hoped that the visit would help students gain a better appreciation of the culture of Muscatine’s large Liberian population and that it can further the Stanley Center’s goal of promoting inclusion and growing global awareness of different cultures.

In other classes, students had opportunities to connect with speakers who had first-hand experiences with some of the topics they studied. In the third and fourth grade mystery festival class and fifth and sixth grade forensics class, a pair of Muscatine police officers came out to share with students how they process a real crime scene and to demonstrate some of their skills on one of the mock crime scenes students had worked on. After spending time learning how to use clues such as fingerprints, toothmarks, and shoe impressions to understand a crime and catch its perpetrator, the police visit let students see what kind of careers utilize those skills.

Other S. P. A. R. K. students had opportunities to engage with special speakers. In the first and second grade camping and outdoors class, students spent time learning about the natural world, from identifying stars, to taking nature walks, to how to stay safe outdoors. July 29, Assistant Fire Chief Michael Hartman came and talked with kids about water safety. He also led them in several fun and educational games, having students do a life jacket relay race and practice reeling in their friends using the kinds of lines first responders use during water rescues.

For the youngest Muskies, the Muscatine Art Center helped them finish up their art class strong with a trio of art projects that let them create bugs. Throughout the summer, students would read books and then create art projects related to what they read.

Though S. P. A. R. K. has ended for this summer, the experiences students had will stay with them. As they start the next school year, organizers and teachers believe they will hit the ground running.