WESTMINSTER >> More than 50 children filed into the Westminster Institute on June 7 to celebrate the publication of Westminster School's literary publication, "Imagination Soup."
The children and faculty of The Westminster Community School gathered in their "Literacy Cafe," for the celebration of the publication's online release. One room of the Institute was transformed into a Parisian cafe. The tables were decorated with electric candles and floral centerpieces. Faculty and a few older children were dressed as wait staff, including berets, moustaches, aprons, and a chef's hat or two. They served the children – who were all contributors to the magazine – pastries, fruit, and other delectable goodies.
The crowd of chattering children hushed and Liz Bourne, a librarian with the school, spoke. The sound of faint music wafted through the air as the children were welcomed and their guest performer, Donald Saaf, was introduced.
"I think it is hard to compete with brownies and cookies and cake," Saaf, an artist and musician from Saxtons River, said while chuckling. "But, I am going to try."
Saaf sang the children songs while playing his guitar and harmonica. Between songs he told stories of his immigrant grandparents and the hours he spent with his siblings creating art and writing comic books for himself. The children listened intently while munching on their mid-morning snack. Occasionally hands would shoot up asking for more juice or another treat.
"Making something out of nothing, it is really like magic," Saaf explained right before asking the children what roles they took in creating the magazine.
"I made the cover!" fifth-grader Tyler Thomas happily announced. Several other children shared how they contributed. Drawings and poems and stories are some of the over 50 contributions the publication received. "Imagination Soup" is part of the Literacy Cafe, a subprogram of Studio Y, an interactive, multidisciplinary arts-based program that uses a variety of mediums. It aims to create opportunities for students to be experiential learners and to develop a deeper understanding of not only themselves but also their community and the world around them.
"You guys did great work!" Saaf exclaimed. "You did magical work!"
Saaf read from a children's book that he illustrated and the room fell silent. After the book was over he opened the floor up for questions. "What is your favorite illustration of your own?" asked Olivia Clough, a second-grade student.
Saaf thought for a moment before answering, "There are usually one or two in every book that I like more than others."
After the questions had waned Saaf performed one last song. He asked the children to help him with choosing animals and places right before he started singing Bascom Lamar Lunsford's "I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground." Changing the lyrics as the children offer up variations he sang about a wolf in Niagara Falls and a koala Ireland, among other animals and places. Meanwhile, the faculty busied themselves with getting prepared to leave the Institute and head back to school. They gathered tiny composition books and pencils together to thank the children for their hard work, hoping to encourage the students to read and write and create art throughout the summer break.
The song was winding down and Saaf asked for one last animal and location. One student offered a moose in a chocolate factory. Saaf sang, "I wish I was a moose in a chocolate factory. Yes, I wish I was a moose in a chocolate factory. If I was a moose in a chocolate factory, I'd Uh Um " Staaf stopped and looked around at the room of young authors and artists, "Help me out!"
Nearly in unison the room full of children who were all full of pastries and cookies and snacks shout out, "Eat all the chocolate!"
"Imagination Soup" is the brainchild of art teacher Janelle Beard. Assisted by fellow staff and volunteers, it has become a successful event held to celebrate the children and their poetry, narrative fiction, informational prose, and art. To see the current issue of Imagination Soup online, visit studioy1330.wix.com/studioy1330#!the-literacy-cafe/c19nb.
Michelle Stephens is a regular contributor to the Reformer, including her twice-a-month column, "Juicebox Confession." She can be reached at Michelle@JuiceboxConfession.com.