Finding after-school activities for students at Otis Orchard Elementary School has posed a challenge for Principal Suzanne Savall. Many students often spend afternoons playing on school grounds, and although Savall doesn’t mind, she wanted to find ways to keep them busy.
“We just need kids to be involved with positive activities,” she said. “We allow the kids to be here because it’s a safe place for them.”
Three years ago, she was approached by members of Kaleo Church who wondered if they could do anything for Otis Orchards and its students. She wholeheartedly accepted.
“It was just a blessing,” Savall said. “They just came to me and said, ‘We want to serve the community.’ ”
The Orchard Project comprises members of Kaleo, parents, school staff, businesses and individuals throughout Otis Orchards. The group has planned several activity days for students.
It’s all part of Savall’s ultimate goal of creating a community center inside the school.
So far this school year, the Orchard Project has held two weeklong camps after school. First, students participated in a basketball camp which culminated with a game that pitted families and staff against the students.
In February, students will get a chance to learn some karate moves, and a theater club from Missoula will visit in April for five days and will involve some middle school students who formerly attended Otis Orchards.
Last week, students learned about creating clay pots which they molded and painted themselves. In another room, they learned about scrafitto. Students scratched a snowflake pattern into clay tiles which had been painted with layers of different colored paints. The color underneath the top layer appears and the tiles were fired in a kiln.
“We really don’t get to do much art,” Savall said.
Third-grader Natalie Siers, 9, made a circular pot and tried to make the bottom as flat as she could with her clay.
“It’s going to be a cereal bowl,” she said. “I might sell it, I don’t know.”
Harley Brake, 7, made a heart-shaped pot with her clay.
“I just like hearts,” she said. “I don’t know what color (it will be), maybe red and yellow.” She said her grandmother was turning 70 soon and she thought the pot would make a great present.
On Friday there will be an art show at the Kave at Kaleo Church, 4904 N. Harvard Road. A movie will follow the show.
Matt Goldbloom, a member of the Orchard Project, helped to organize last week’s activities. About 10 volunteers helped, including school counselor Debbie Hill and parent volunteer and substitute teacher Jody Hart.
“We’re giving them adult mentors they can look up to,” Goldbloom said.