Military Families Celebrated with Creative Safari Program

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November is Military Family Appreciation Month, but Arizona Operation: Military Kids (OMK) began their celebration a few days early.

On October 27, OMK hosted Speak Out Military Kids - Creative Safari at the Tucson Museum of Art. This arts and puppetry program was designed to help children from Arizona's military families build community and share their experiences with other military youth. The 30 children who participated in Creative Safari range in age from kindergarten through the third grade and have parents from various branches of the military services.

Arizona Operation: Military Kids is based at the University of Arizona's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and implemented through UA Cooperative Extension and affiliated 4-H Youth Development programs across the state. This program is funded nationally through the land-grant university system by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense and Department of the Army. OMK was honored earlier this year with the 2012 National Service Impact Award from the Corporation of National and Community Services.

The Creative Safari program was inspired by Lion's Pride: A Tail of Deployment, a children's book written and illustrated by Grace Anne Remey, an eight year old from Tucson. In Lion's Pride, Grace shares her experiences coping with the military deployment of a parent. She tells the story through the eyes of a lion cub as her daddy lion deploys. Military kids attending Creative Safari had an opportunity to hear the book, share their own experiences with deployment, and talk about family traditions in facing the challenges in having a deployed parent.

The day began with an art activity designed to build community. Each child drew pictures and shared a story about their family and home and about community activities they enjoy. These pictures and stories were then organized into books. Kids chose an animal they felt represented them – as did Grace with the lion in her book – and Stefani Hewitt, museum staff and military spouse, showed them how to mold their animals out of clay and other materials.

Safari-themed parachute games built teamwork – and burned some energy. Children also had the opportunity to express themselves with puppet theater. They each used an animal puppet to share their personal experiences coping with deployment while the group came up with a collaborative story.

Creative Safari was a community collaboration between OMK and its Arizona staff, Teresa Noon, the Tucson Museum of Art, volunteers from the University of Arizona and AmeriCorps VISTA, Caty Maginnis, a teacher from Catalina Foothills School District, and Grace Anne Remey, author and illustrator of Lion's Pride.

Lisa J. Remey, M.Ed., LPC, RPT, NCC, graciously contributed to the preparation of this article.

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