MASSENA -- Massena elementary school students had the chance to attend SUNY Potsdam’s Very Special Arts Festival recently.
“We go every year and the kids get so excited,” says Cathy Ashlaw, teacher at Nightengale Elementary. “This is an amazing event that SUNY Potsdam puts on. Students that attend the college volunteer, students whom I hope to see as Special Education teachers one day. They provide games, face painting, and other events. It’s a fun, happy day and the kids really enjoy themselves”.
Since 1971, public school students and adults from day treatment facilities and ARCs from St. Lawrence, Franklin, Jefferson and Lewis counties, along with their teachers and supervisors, have attended this annual event to celebrate their talents.
“The Very Special Arts Festival gives my students an opportunity to show their inner creativity without being assessed or graded for their work,” said Roxanne Howard, teacher at Madison Elementary. “They loved all the activities especially creating their own little piece of art magic to bring home.”
The festival sports a certain theme each year. This year’s theme was “Rockin’ in Space.” Students created banners, booth activities, and even shirt designs. Several earned awards. Donna Henrie’s Jefferson Elementary class won first place for having the best "Hands On Workshop." At their “Spaceship...Alien Invasion” booth, students could build a spaceship and choose an alien to go in it. Mary Thrana, from Carrie Stoffel’s Jefferson Elementary class, won first place in the t-shirt design contest. Cathy Ashlaw’s Nightengale Elementary class won first prize for having the best “Rockin’ in Space” banner.
“It was fun. I think other kids should go and enjoy” said Travis Sawyer, a student at Jefferson Elementary. Travis enjoyed a whole day of games, face painting and other events.
“We are very proud of the effort and creativity of our students,” said William Todd, teacher at Madison Elementary. “Our students worked on our banner to practice how to work as a team and learned that they can do great things if they put their mind to it.”
Some students performed skits at the festival. Jefferson Elementary teacher Mary Curry and her students put on “Rock ‘n Roll Heaven,” a musical of rock stars from the past, dancing to their most famous songs.
“From the smiles on their faces, I would say that the kids enjoyed it very much and judging from the enthusiastic response from the audience, they did too,” said Mary.
This day is made possible only through donations from individuals and businesses in the North Country and the volunteers from the college students and coordinators and community members.
“Congratulations to our prize winners! It’s great to hear what a wonderful time the kids had,” said Superintendent Roger Clough II.
“It’s fantastic to see so much happiness in one place” said Carrie Stoffel.