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BlockFest: Traveling exhibit allows creativity, color to show

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com
It’s a refreshing change to the electronic toys of today.
Children and parents are gathering at the Park Avenue Community Center this week to play with blocks ó hundreds of foam, wooden, cardboard and plastic blocks of all shapes and sizes.
Five stations set up inside the community center allow groups of up to seven parents and children to play 10 minutes at each before moving on to the next. The groups at Tuesday’s Blockfest ó a traveling, interactive exhibit for counties with Parents as Teachers programs ó were able to do a lot of creating in 10 minutes.
As of Tuesday, about 100 parents or teachers and 400 children had signed up to participate in hourlong sessions which began on Monday and will end on Friday.
Coordinator Marcie Petty said parents can still sign up for this afternoon’s time slots.
Aurora and Spencer Swain and their 14-month-old daughter, Cameron, were among the families participating in the 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon session.
Spencer and 10-year-old Caroline Johnson, who was there with her mother, Lynn, made a multi-story firehouse out of cardboard blocks painted to look like bricks. “See the truck,” he said when asked about the structure. “This is a big-time New York firehouse.
“That would be the biggest firehouse in the United States and the oldest. Now we are going to tear it down,” he said after Petty announced that it was time to change block stations. “Gone,” he said as Caroline knocked it down.
Children seemed to take more delight than the adults in tearing down the creations, no matter how intricate they were.
Cameron, who was wearing a pink bow in her hair, lost interest in the blocks after a couple of stations, but spotted a potential friend in 10-month-old Shyann Sykes, who had two pink bows in her hair, at another station and walked over to play.
Petty, Parents as Teachers educator of Cabarrus County, joined in the fun. “Ding dong, ding dong,” she said while admiring a block house one group had made. “Are you going to answer the door? Hey! Can I come in?”
She picked up a yellow foam V-shaped block and placed it on her head. “Now, I’m a blockhead,” she said. “It’s official.”
Petty, at the end of each 10-minute segment, reminded groups to put their blocks back in the storage containers and sanitize their hands with a large bottle of Germ-X before moving onto the next station.
Her sons, 9-year-old John and 3-year-old Matt, participated in the Tuesday afternoon session.
Seven-year-old Julian Kauffman of Granite Quarry was joined by his grandmother, Cindy Webb of Woodleaf, at one of the stations. Webb held the wooden blocks stable while Julian carefully stacked blocks with colorful transparent insets on top.
Julian’s mother, Angie, is a program manager at Adolescent and Family Enrichment Council.
BlockFest is sponsored by Smart Start, Rowan Regional Medical Center, the Rowan County United Way, Nancy Evans, Rita Kotarsky, Salisbury Pediatric and all the Rowan and Cabarrus Head Start programs.
Parents as Teachers, a program funded with Smart Start funds, hosted the event. The Rowan and Cabarrus Parents as Teachers programs are part of the Adolescent and Family Enrichment Council of Rowan County.
The traveling interactive exhibit was created by the University of Idaho Parents as Teachers Demonstration Project. BlockFest helps to raise awareness of early math and science learning by offering hands-on block play experiences to families with young children.
To schedule a time slot this afternoon, call 704-630-0481. The Park Avenue Community Center is located at 632 Park Ave.
The BlockFest learning event will be held next week in Cabarrus County in the Old Cabarrus Bank at 201 West A St., Kannapolis. Parents and children from Rowan County who weren’t able to attend this week’s BlockFest may participate by calling 704-630-0481.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-7683.

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