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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Herald & Review.

DECATUR — Seeing “Aladdin Jr.” at the Little Theatre-On the Square in Sullivan inspired the SMASH Jr. campers.

“Aladdin Jr.” is an abbreviated version of the Broadway production, geared toward a young audience, and the children went as part of their camp experience, said Tara Pitt, counselor for the second and third grades.

They were figuring out what they wanted to do for their projects based on the statement, “I want to teach Decatur to ...” Each group finished the sentence with its own goal.

“All the students thought about different things they were passionate about, things that matter to them,” she said. “They came up with bullying or problem-solving, and one (group) that wants to teach Decatur to take better care of animals, and one that wants to stop littering.

"The kids came into small groups after they had researched, and we also learned about different avenues of showing a message.”

Each group is writing and rehearsing a short play that represents what the campers want to teach Decatur, Pitt said. The plays will be performed as part of the SMASH Camp showcase, 6 p.m. Thursday, June 28, at Albert Taylor Theatre in Shilling Hall at Millikin University. Admission is free, but those who attend are asked to bring a nonperishable food donation for area food pantries.

“They wrote the scripts as a group, they painted the backgrounds, they are acting in it, some of them are directors,” she said. “They've done everything.”

SMASH Camps, one for elementary and one for middle school, is for gifted students and part of the Decatur schools' summer programming. Projects are hands-on and directed by student interest and ability.

“They were the ones who really caught on to doing a play,” Pitt said. “They've got amazing ideas. They're an incredible group of kids that have really awesome ideas.”

Sun Yoon, 9, is with a group whose topic is problem-solving.

“Everybody needs a problem solved,” she said. “The bullying is happening by not problem-solving. Stuff is happening, and they're not problem-solving. They're just fighting.”

“Our group is very passionate about animals, and we want to save them,” said 8-year-old Jesiah Joyner.

His group is addressing several topics within kindness to animals, and those topics are not just for people in Decatur.

“Stop abandoning them and stop killing animals for their fur,” he said.

Another group chose helping people who are homeless for its topic, and will encourage people to donate to organizations that help them, with gifts of water, food, clothes and money.

In their play, the campers show people who are homeless and how one person is rude to them, but another is nice and offers help.

“There's a lot of people who are homeless, and I just feel bad for them,” said Alaina Folmnsbee, 9.

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter


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