West Community Center focuses on creativity at afterschool program
Using a cardboard box, craft pipe cleaners and toilet paper tubes, fifth-grader Ayla Ojanen and a group of friends opened “Sugar Rush” ice cream stand to their fellow classmates.
The makerspace studio at the Lauri Ann West Community Center in O’Hara, part of the After School Care Arts and Enrichment program, is focused on giving students like Ayla an opportunity to use their imaginations as well as recycled materials to create unique projects.
Centa Schumacher, the lead makerspace instructor, strives for kids to use their creativity in unguided, hands-on projects such as this one.
“Instead of having guided and directed projects, it’s more about exploration and working with materials to figure out things on their own,” Schumacher said.
The Arts and Enrichment program is for Fox Chapel Area School District students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Aside from the makerspace room, the kids rotate at 30-minute intervals between art lessons, science experiments, homework, exercise and outdoor playing.
For Program Manager Jason Fate, allotting time each day for individual students’ interests also is important.
“In this type of environment, kids really get to explore their creative sides,” Fate said.
But the real driver of the program is its makerspace studio, modeled after the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s MAKESHOP.
The room inside the Powers Run Road community center is nothing short of a laboratory. With projects ever changing, kids bounce between finger crocheting, stock motion animation, sewing and cardboard art.
Schumacher said she and other instructors constantly are collaborating on new ideas for the space — but whatever the new idea is, it’s important it involve putting reclaimed materials to creative reuse.
“It encourages kids to look more broadly (at) reusing things and what’s possible when doing it,” Schumacher said. “The things that come from their own imaginations and these materials are way cooler than any rubber band catapult I could show them.”
Parents can choose to register children five days a week, or pick anywhere from two to five consistent days per week for the fall or spring session. Currently, there are 85 children registered for the program with about 65 kids taking part each day, which Fate said is the limit. Parents can contact him to get on a waiting list.
The community center provides transportation from Dorseyville Middle School, Fairview, Hartwood, Kerr and O’Hara elementaries.
For more, visit lauriannwestcc.org.
Christine Manganas is a freelance writer.