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Archive for the ‘learning’ tag

Learning about ourselves and others through books: Book clubs in Fort Collins

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Azar Nafisi, in her bestselling memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran, says of her time reading books with her Iranian students, “I am amazed at how much we learned without noticing it. We were, to borrow from Nabokov, to experience how the ordinary pebble of ordinary life could be transformed into a jewel through the magic eye of fiction.”

It is always rewarding to read a good book, to find something in written language that speaks to us and our understanding of the world. But this experience is enhanced, especially for Nafisi, by sharing those discoveries in reading with friends. This experience is something that you cannot get just by reading a book on your own. You need to share your thoughts, your experience, with others.

Here in Fort Collins, there are many ways for you to share your love of books. Book clubs are a great way to get involved in both a book and your community, sharing the impact of a great work of literature with others.  Old Firehouse Books in Old Town gives you tons of opportunities to participate in book clubs, no matter what your taste in literature. The bookstore currently offers five book clubs, including a “Strange Worlds Book Club” for science fiction lovers, an “Open Book Club” if you want to learn the most classic and popular books of our time, and even the “Cooking the Books” book club, for those who would rather spend more time in the kitchen than curled up on the couch with a novel.

Want to put together your own book club? Not a problem. If you have a group already discussing books, or if you want to build up a small reading group, you can register your book club at Old Firehouse Books. Not only will the bookstore make sure that each book you study is available, each book will be discounted 20% to book club members. Not only can you get your new club organized, your members will be able to participate for a good price.

If you are looking for a more dynamic book club experience, you do not have to restrict yourself to just written pages. Starting this year, Lyric Cinema Café is holding a monthly book and movie club. This club will explore literary works, and the Lyric will show these books’ film adaptations on the fourth Tuesday of each month. This gives the reader a multi-dimensional view of one story, moving the experience of narrative beyond the page and into new visual mediums.

Whether you are part of a club organized by a bookstore or other organization, or if you just meet a few friends in your living room every once in a while, sharing a good book with others leads to an enhancement of the reading experience. Hearing the ideas of others, while at the same time finding out how universal written works can be, gives a whole new perspective to reading a book.

Azar Nafisi used literary works to bring together a group of women in post-revolutionary Iran. Through books, these women were able to discover something about themselves and their collective lives. Literature gave them a lens through which they could understand themselves. Through book clubs it is possible for us, in our own way, to come together. In sharing a book, we can share a collective experience that is both enlightening and memorable. Make sure to utilize some of the many resources our town has available to get involved in this unique reading experience.

Encouraging talent in our schools: help support Fort Collins’ first student house band!

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We all have probably heard of the importance of music in schools. Students who study music are opened up to a world of creativity that can enhance learning in other subjects. Our own Poudre School District in Fort Collins offers various music programs to its students, including extracurricular opportunities for bands and choirs, but there is one group going above and beyond to showcase musical talent in our schools.

Over one year ago, Suna Thomas and staff members from Kinard Middle School noticed that many students had musical talents but were unable to play in traditional school bands. Some kids had been playing instruments such as guitar and bass for many years, but had no outlet for their creativity and talent within the school system. With the support of the Fort Collins community, the hopes of Suna and many students became a reality- one month ago, Kinard Middle School formed the Poudre School District’s first “House Band.”

Auditions were held, and 7 students were picked to participate in this unique music program. Instruments include guitar, bass, piano, keyboards, electric drums, and even electric violin. Instructor David Parsons leads the House Band, and holds rehearsal twice a week. Not only do the band members regularly show up to practice, which is held before classes begin in the morning, according to Suna they often show up early, and enthusiastically get in as much play time as they can. That is serious dedication!

And all the hard work is definitely beginning to pay off for these kids. The Kinard Middle School House Band is generating a ton of buzz in Fort Collins, earning support from the Fort Collins Music Association, Colorado Contemporary Music College, Shaped Music, Chipper’s Lanes, Valpak, and Northern Colorado radio station KISS FM. Even local music instructors and lots of music stores around town have lent tremendous support. The response to the House Band in such a short period of time demonstrates both the student’s amazing musical ability and the willingness of organizations and individuals in Fort Collins to step up and support aspiring musicians.

We look forward to hearing more from these students in the coming months. There is work to be done as the House Band continues to perfect their sound, and as the program seeks to gain more support through events and fundraisers. There is a huge need for us to foster musical endeavors such as these as they get off the ground. As Suna noted, “no one has ever done this before.” The ability of everyone at Kinard Middle School to build this program organically is truly impressive, and deserves the continuing support of Fort Collins.

The ultimate goal of the House Band program is to encourage students in their chosen activities, even when they do not fit into the “typical” system of school extracurriculars. Suna said, “We hope that the success that is achieved at Kinard will be a catalyst for others to follow in our footsteps and give more of these type of talented kids the same opportunity to be recognized.” Just imagine how it must feel for any student to know that their own interests are supported and encouraged by their own community.

Check out the Kinard Middle School House Band’s amazing musical talent here!  You can also see them play live early next year, as they have been invited to perform during intermission at a Colorado Eagles game! Beet Street will be keeping you updated on event details as this program continues to grow.

If you would like more information on how you can support the House Band program, please contact us here at Beet Street. After all, recognizing talents of all kinds is vital to inspiring true creativity and learning.

The Scent of Erasers and Freshly Sharpened Pencils: A Nostalgic Experience

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Wonder Woman Lunch Box

Recently on routine trips to Target to buy groceries or laundry detergent, I have been easily distracted by the giant signs and bright displays in the store’s back corner. I know that there is something over there way more exciting than my basic home necessities. As I wander further towards the back, I finally get a glimpse of what I knew was coming up ahead. School supplies! Yes, it is back to school time. As I perused the section, I noticed a young girl running down the aisle with the biggest smile on her face, arms clutched around her new prize- a neon pink Hannah Montana backpack. I am sure I once exhibited the same elated behavior: for me it was a plastic Wonder Woman lunch box. In fact, it seems like children now are just as excited as past generations about the first day of school. Last Sunday I was up half the night on a visit to my parents’ house, watching my little niece strategically plan out which new outfit to wear each day for the whole first week of classes, and trying to calm her down as she claimed, “I just can’t sleep, I’m too excited!” I wonder how many late hours have been spent over the years as kids lay awake, thinking about that first day of school.

photo credit: C.A. Muller

I have to admit, though, that Hannah Montana backpack was way cooler (and likely way more pricey) than my Wonder Woman lunch box. It had near twenty pockets in it, with special compartments for water bottles and cell phones. It was difficult to think of what I had when I was a kid that was so complex. Just seeing freshly sharpened pencils was pretty thrilling, much less an entire box to store them in. I would have probably gone completely wild if someone told me I could buy markers that smelled like fruit, or better yet a calculator that could do most of my math problems for me!

As exhilarating as these things are, it would be unfair to say that these gadgets and tools are the most essential part of the school season. After all, their trendiness does not seem to detract students from being completely energetic and engaged in the experience of education both in and out of class. As if there was not enough to do (with new homework assignments now piling up), there are sports or dance practices, and endless clubs to sign up for.

If anyone is looking for a break from hanging out on campus, Fort Collins is full of fun and interesting events that provide continual learning long after the last bell rings. The Poudre River Public Library District hosts International Night, where each month you can learn the ins and outs of countries around the world. There is also a series on health and nutrition that may help your family stay healthy through the busy and sometimes stressful school season. I love that these opportunities are not limited to children or adults; instead there is something for everyone to learn. And in case your little ones aren’t quite ready for that Hannah Montana backpack, young children’s activities, like story time, pick back up in September. The Poudre River Public Library District has a great Calendar, so check it out if you want more details on their events.

Looking for more ways to entertain your brain? Here are other activities that will get you going:

Dialogue Cafe at Avogadro’s Number
Bee Family Centennial Farm Museum
Sweat for Humanity Fundraiser
Fort Collins Museum and Discovery Science Center

With so many educational opportunities for all ages, it is no surprise that back to school excitement goes beyond just new backpacks. Sure we all love the latest stuff, but there is so much more to the school season. Though we may be pretty busy right now, we always seem to find time to continually grow in our education and in our communities. With so many new things in Fort Collins to experience, there is no end to how much you can learn.

Shauna Hobson, Beet Street staff