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Grant funds make five-week workshop offered by Columbia City Community Library volunteers possible

PHOTO COURTESY OF CHIP GARDES - Piper Burgard and Mia Crawford hold up puppets they made during the afterschool workshop offered by the Columbia City Community Library. Library volunteers obtained grant funding from the Columbia County Cultural Commission to help pay for supplies. Volunteers with the Columbia City Community Library hosted a five-week puppet-making workshop with students from Columbia City Elementary School throughout February and March.

The program, which was the first of its kind to be offered by library volunteers, was funded by a grant through the Columbia County Cultural Coalition. Called the Cultural Arts After School program, it encourages students of all ages to explore puppetry in various forms and inspires art, reading and imagination, a press release from the library stated.

The 20 students who took part in the afterschool program were supplied with materials and examples of puppets to make. One week, students created 3-D butterflies with wings that moved. Another, in celebration of the Chinese New Year, students learned to fold strips of paper into an accordion-style design to fashion a dragon puppet whose head could move upward as the tail moved down.

Volunteers also used library books to guide various lessons and teach students more about cultural influences around the styles of puppets they were making.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CHIP GARDES - Evelynn Worlitz displays a mini puppet theater she made during the workshop. Students were asked to make small theaters that could be worn around their necks with small puppets on Popsicle sticks poking through the bottom of the box. Wendy Wells, a volunteer with the program and president of the Friends of the Library group, said many students were excited to come up with their own ideas after seeing examples of possible puppets. Wells said it was fun to watch the students' enthusiasm and creativity.

Katrina Clift, another volunteer with the program and a retired St. Helens School District teacher, said she also enjoyed observing the students' creativity. Often with young children, she said, you give them a theme and just let them run with it.

"I really like watching what they come up with. Every kid is different and they just take whatever you have and really make it into whatever they want," Clift said. "You're watching them think it through in different ways."

Clift added that the program was a great way to build a partnership between the Columbia City Community Library and other organizations, and to find support through local funding sources.

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