Expectant faces look up with smiles stretched ear to ear. Many carry backpacks they received at their last visit that are full of treasures they created themselves. Their outstretched hands reach forward, preparing for their turn with the magnets. The magnets are powerful and must be handled with care. Adults urge them to listen carefully, and the children look intently, expectantly to the front. A magnet is placed in the center of each upturned palm, and the children walk single file throughout the room exploring what the magnets can do.
These children from Washington's Walla Walla Valley are enjoying the benefits of a $16,000 grant from Versacare Inc. awarded to Walla Walla University (WWU) to implement a 2015 summer program for children at the Children’s Museum of Walla Walla (CMWW)
The grant enables WWU and the university’s community partners to provide educational workshops for low-income immigrant children in Walla Walla. Workshops explore themes of science, health care and recycling. The program is managed by the WWU School of Education and School of Engineering. Community partners include nonprofit organizations that have worked closely with WWU for years, including the Children’s Home Society of Walla Walla (CHSWW), CMWW and Walla Walla General Hospital (WWGH).
Four full days of workshops are held throughout the summer at the Children’s Museum with nine workshops per day. Eighty-seven children gather in three age groups for three workshops that occur simultaneously so everyone gets a turn.
A CMWW employee gives the children an opportunity to express their creativity by giving them wooden dolls, which they paint and bring to life by telling their dolls' stories.
To teach the importance of putting trash in the proper place, Tammy Randolph, WWU professor of education, has the children pretend to swim their way to a "Chinese junk” — a boat in the backyard of the Children’s Museum — while picking up trash as they swim along.
Randolph explains that the summer program at the Children’s Museum is the realization of her dream to see WWU and the Walla Walla community serve children with a Jesus-like love.
This urging on her heart prompted her to bring the idea of a summer program at the Children’s Museum to the School of Engineering, CHSWW, CMWW and WWGH. Together, they applied for the Versafund grant through Versacare Inc. to make the program possible. The grant was awarded to WWU in January. Versacare Inc. is a Southern California-based company that awards grants primarily to Seventh-day Adventist organizations that have a reasonable plan for implementing programs that support and educate children, especially in the fields of health and science.
WWU and its community partners plan to apply for the Versafund grant again next year in order to continue providing summer programs for immigrant and other disadvantaged children during the summer months.