As Minot was flooding last summer, Sunnyside Elementary principal Cindy Cook was already thinking of ways to help the children in her school heal from the catastrophe.
She wrote a proposal for a National Association of Elementary School Principals and Crayola's "Champion Creatively Alive Children" school grant that includes monthly creative activities for parents and children.
That grant was awarded last October and Sunnyside was one of 20 schools in the nation to receive it. Winners received a $2,500 monetary grant and $500 worth of Crayola products.
Submitted Photo - - Activity participant Janine Peryea makes blankets with her daughters Ella Peryea and Megan Peryea at a family night activity at Sunnyside in January.
Submitted Photo - - Laura Untz makes tie blankets at a January family night activity at Sunnyside Elementary with her daughter Tia Untz.
"I wrote the grant sitting on my deck during the flood," said Cook, whose home wasn't flooded, though many in the neighborhood were. Six out of seven mobile home parks in the Sunnyside area were flooded and life changed for many children and teachers at the school.
Students in the neighborhood already come from a diverse population. Some families that were already struggling to support their children financially before the flood were overwhelmed by the disaster.
Others did not experience flooding personally but have seen how it impacted the people they know. Everyone has been impacted.
"It's different this year," said Cook.
While she hasn't seen an increase in behavior problems or noticeable signs of stress, both teachers and children alike seem to notice the atmosphere is different.
The creative activity nights have drawn more than 250 parents and children and include a free supper, interactive activities and also discussion about how to talk with children about the flood and what not to say in a crisis. The efforts seem to be appreciated, Cook said.
In November, group members made drum kits. In December they made ornaments and had a singalong. In January they made fleece blankets, and this month there was a bingo night. Cook had wanted to make Valentines but realized belatedly that they would be done too late for the children to distribute them. The next monthly activity will be a literacy night on March 12.
Since last fall the monthly creative nights at the school have drawn crowds of more than 250 parents and children.
The activities have all been funded by the grant.
Champion Creatively Alive Children grants provide principals and educators with funding and supplies needed to explore creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking skills.
Recipients of this year's grants will share outcomes from their programs via Crayola's and National Association of Elementary School Principals websites to inspire other principals and educators with ways they can integrate art into various subject areas like science, math and social studies.