Highlander (7/26/2007)

IMAGINE THAT: Tandi Folliott, 11, right, writes and illustrates her original story, "The Magic Mushroom," during the Imagination Workshop at Killian School. Beside her, Sheyanne Calhoun, 9, works on her "Rain Forest" story. (Raul Roa/Staff)
Escargot, go, go
By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer
Highlander July 26, 2007
Snail races?
That's why they call it the Imagination Workshop. So kids can allow their imaginations to slither about.
And 8-year-old Nick Thomas of Rowland Heights did just that in his book about the "Snail City Race." In it, gastropods race along for the first-place prize of a trip to New York City.
Other students took flights of fancy, with 11-year-old Tandi Folliott writing about a girl named Sasha who eats a weird purple-and-black mushroom and grows the wings of a butterfly. Sasha soon tires of flitting about and dreams of returning to normal.
"The lesson is that it's better to be normal than to try to become something you're not," Folliott said.
While the nearly 180 students in the special program may have active imaginations, they do not have "normal" home lives.
In fact, they don't have "normal" homes, according to Nancy Ballantyne, grant coordinator for the Rowland Unified School District.
"They're some of the 1,600 homeless students in the district. That's about 10 percent of the total enrollment," Ballantyne said.
"Children in transition are identified as homeless by the federal government. Their families may have doubled up with family or friends because of economic conditions. Or they may be living in motels or hotels. Some even live in garages," the district official explained.
The federal Department of Education provides special funding to help these students. This summer a grant was used to pay for the Imagination Workshop.
"It's an enrichment program, many of the kids don't have a lot of exposure to the things other children take for granted. They don't have the basic skills of students their age," Ballantyne said.
So for three hours a day after regular summer school the children were treated to a workshop where they could explore their imaginations and learn basic skills in the process.
The unique curriculum was developed by Killian teacher Alice Aranda. She decided to base it on the book "A Quiet Place" by Douglas Wood.
That children's book discusses "quiet places" where children may go to discover the power of their own imaginations.
Aranda used these places to pique the interest of the children. They ventured out in forests, oceans, deserts and mountains through various activities and books.
"We went to the Los Angeles Zoo," Angel Sotelo said.
The 11-year-old noted they saw lions and alligators, but his favorite animal were the lemurs.
"We also went to the Discovery Science Center in Santa Anna. They really liked that because all the displays are so hands-on," said teacher Carrie Shen.
The first-grade teacher at Killian thought the program was wonderful for the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.
The program began on June 18, with Shen passing out backpacks full of school supplies to her 21 students. Similar supplies were given out at workshops in eight other schools in the district.
The Imagination Workshop also provided new books for the students to enjoy. On the last day on July 17, the students were allowed to pick four books to take "home."
The district even had a children's author come out to talk to the students. Ballantyne said Anne Guatemala has written several children's books in English and Spanish that have been used in Head Start programs.
"This wonderful writer told the kids how to write a book — from the original idea to the printing," Ballantyne said.
The students were then invited to write their own books. Sheyanne Calhoun, 9, wrote about her character Teddy exploring a rain forest. Eight-year-old Hyuni Kim told an extensive story with ships, volcanoes and Power Girls.Jailene Hernandez's tale told of a friendly shark. The 10-year-old thought a hammerhead would be the best.
But a favorite was still the "Snail City Race" by Thomas. Now that's an active imagination.
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