A hand in learning

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Six-year-old Ellie was a little too timid on July 23 to join the other kids who were petting the star fish in a bucket of water.

“Life Without A Backbone — The Traveling Sea” is the fifth Funtaztikidz program at the city of Thornton that Mary Beer had attended with her granddaughter.

“She was a little intimidated by the feel of the fish, but she does enjoy the hands-on activities,” Beer said. “She watched for a while and made a sea urchin out of clay and toothpicks.”

Funtaztikidz started in 2002, and has seven events with different themes June through August.

“The purpose of the program is to offer families a fun learning experience in Thornton,” said Jennie Slattengren, arts and volunteer coordinator with the city. “Through the educational and entertaining programs, Funtaztikidz also supports school readiness for local youth.”

Some of the other program themes this summer have been Africa Explorer, The Bug Stops Here — both presented by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science — and Music through the Ages with Andy Hackbarth.

“We have found that kids are excited to learn about anything,” Slattengren said. “The key is entertaining and experiential learning. Youth love the hands on interactive nature of the Funtaztikidz programs.”

She said that the themes and content are largely determined by resident feedback — surveys are done after every program and the responses direct programming for the following year.

“Utilizing many metro Denver organizations, we do try and maintain variety in the Funtaztikidz programs to offer diverse and comprehensive material,” Slattengren said. “Some of the programs are registration only and restrict the number of attendees. Depending on the type of program being offered we usually have 35 to 100-plus attendees.”

There are two more Funtaztikidz events left for this summer — “The Gingerbread Man,” which is an interactive theater presented by The Children’s Museum of Denver from 10:30-11:30 a.m. today (Aug. 1) and “Integrated Rhythms” with Kelly Russel, a professional dancer from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Aug. 8. The events are at the Thornton Arts and Cultural Center, 9209 Dorothy Blvd.

The program is free, but the city does ask for a $2 donation, which Beer said is more than reasonable for a good time with her granddaughter.

“I enjoy every opportunity I get to spend with her. I like watching her learn and grow and even grandma learns and laughs along with her,” Beer said.

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