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K-grams Kids-Fair draws 1,000 kids to Crisler Arena

BY LUCILLE VAUGHAN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 8, 2004

Crisler Arena was filled with the sounds of popping balloons,
loud music and excited children Friday.

K-grams Kids-Fair 2004, titled “The Human Body: A Head to
Toe Adventure,” involved parents, teachers and students from
the University and 10 elementary schools in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti
and Detroit.

More than 1,000 children were entertained and educated by
activities about thinking, living, sensing and moving. Exhibits
included everything from “Writing Body Parts in
Chinese” and “The Sanitation Station” to
“Name that Smell” and “Sensory Face
Painting.”

Shelley Gladwin, a University alum and Ann Arbor resident,
staffed a table for Environmental Action featuring organic candy.
She said she was very impressed with the elementary school children
who approached her table.

“I’ve seen lots of smart kids,” she said.
“We have an ‘Organic Jeopardy’ and they’re
answering all the questions.”

Gladwin added that she hoped the children would not only enjoy
Kids-Fair, but also learn new things. “We want to educate
kids early on environmental issues and how they can help save the
planet,” she said.

K-grams is a year-long program that includes pen-pal letter
exchanges, weekly classroom projects, mentoring and reading
sessions and campus visits. Kids-Fair is the culmination of the
program, in which elementary students can meet their pen pals and
visit the University campus.

LSA junior Amy Crosby, assistant director of K-grams, explained
the goals of Kids-Fair and K-grams itself: allowing elementary
school students to develop a bond with the University.

“For a lot of the little kids, this is their first visit
to a college campus,” she said. “It’s also great
for them to establish a relationship with someone who is not really
an adult yet but is able to be a mentor.”

Ken Monash, a fifth grade teacher at Dicken Elementary, agreed
that the relationships developed in the K-grams program have been
overwhelmingly positive.

“There was a girl two years ago in my classroom who had a
pen pal who helped her deal with personal issues about being
adopted. We didn’t know this when they were assigned, but the
pen pal was adopted too,” he said.

Monash also said K-grams has a beneficial effect on his
students’ academic progress. “It’s been a very
useful tool for writing skills,” he said. “The writing
they do for their pen pals is exceptional. It’s one
assignment I’ve never heard a single complaint
about.”

Many parents who attended the event praised the effects of
K-grams on their children. Melissa Reitz, an Ann Arbor resident,
explained how the program helped her second-grade son Duncan with
his writing skills. “I like that it reinforces
writing,” she said. “They are learning punctuation;
they are learning to ask questions about other people. They are
learning to talk about their likes and dislikes.”

The children at Kids-Fair expressed their feelings about the
day’s events and the program itself.

Jennifer Hooper, a fourth-grade student at Dicken Elementary,
said Kids-Fair was a good experience for her and her friends.
“I like the activities,” she explained. “My
favorite was silly putty.”

Hooper also enjoys the pen-pal letter exchanges that she and her
classmates participated in. “I tell what my hobbies are and I
like answering back questions,” she said.

Duncan Reitz, who attends Dicken Elementary, said he liked the
Kids-Fair but wished his pen pal had been able to attend. “I
like being downstairs,” he said, referring to the lower level
of Crisler Arena. “I did lots of stuff. I did limbo and I did
a dance with ice cubes. I really wish (my pen pal) were here on
this wonderful day.”

More than 1,000 University students were present, including
members of K-grams and representatives from 95 groups on
campus.

LSA sophomore Eric Chisholm, a member of the K-grams mentoring
program BookMARK, said the day was planned so that children could
learn more about the University. “The kids learn a lot about
different programs and opportunities at the school,” he said.
During Kids-Fair, Chisholm accompanied four children from Northside
Elementary.

LSA junior Cherice Johnson, a member of the professional
business organization Alpha Kappa Psi, staffed a table with candy
and a game called “Pin the Organ on the Body.” She said
the purpose of the fair included both entertainment and education.
“I think for a lot of kids it is a chance for them to go out
to a big university and play with U of M students and learn,”
she said.