Editor’s note: Since September, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one, a full-fledged director of a nonprofit tutoring collaborative that began officially in late January but has transformed considerably since. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.
Two classes into Maker Mondays at Worcester Public Library and I can feel the buzz surrounding The Learning Hub gaining an enormous level of momentum. Students have already started to request early signups for the upcoming schedule of free, interactive learning classes.
The first Maker Monday, on Aug. 1, explored the diverse lands of art and impressionism. While I spoke to the students, as young as seven years old, their eyes lit up with excitement. Hearing about the struggles of Vincent van Gogh and his love for Paris, they learned about the impressionist movement — and even painted their very own Starry Night interpretation.
With each brushstroke, they asked questions and spoke about their own love for painting. Some students stayed past class time to perfect their masterpieces and grab materials to take home.
We — as in me and my assistant tutor Samantha Butera — start each class with a lesson lecture about our topic as we ask our students questions in regard to their previous experience in the area. For our van Gogh paint lab, many students did not know of his name, nor did they know that van Gogh’s Portrait of a Man in a Top Hat hangs on the expansive walls of Worcester Art Museum.
We made it a point that by the end of the class, each student understood some element of van Gogh’s life and work, and a greater appreciation for the arts in general. Although it was our first class, we had an attendance of 13 students and a reinvigorating level of energy for learning in a space they’ve visited a million times before.
Catch up with Giselle’s most recent chapter, The starting line, finally, or scroll down to start from earlier in her journey
Our primary purpose is to give children a preview into our amazing world, filled with unexplored territories and unlimited possibilities. And as early as two completed maker classes, we can already see that The Learning Hub is on the right path.
We aren’t the only ones happy about our progress and in love with our mission. The Wayland Free Public Library in Wayland, Mass., has reached out to explore options for hosting maker STEAM [STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, classes, with Art incorporated] classes during the upcoming Fall season.
The Wayland school district is seeking ways to incorporate the STEAM learning model into its system. The library acknowledges the value of these classes and their impact on the local community, and they see themselves as first-responders to the needs of the public school system. It is a beautiful ecosystem.
The notion of revitalizing the public library dynamic is an overly ambitious task for one woman and an awesome intern, but with the help of these libraries and their local communities, we could be able to reach out to the masses and provide free maker STEAM classes throughout Massachusetts and ultimately, at any local library.
While we pace ourselves and try to maintain the business, we can’t help but feel excited about our progress.
On Monday, we are hosting a Writing Workshop Maker Class at the library’s main branch in Salem Square. We will explore the world of creative writing — a personal favorite!
Many see creative writing as a tool to calm the imagination, but we see it as a tool to build communication skills, thought-process, empathy and the underlying desire to question all that life has to offer. We will read, “What Do You Do with an Idea?” by Kobi Yamada, a favorite in the Flores household, and discuss various ideas the students have. Once they have expressed their ideas, we will create our own storybooks — which I would like to publish at a later time as an anthology of work for them.
The maker STEAM classes are just the beginning.
With our Free Little Libraries initiative percolating behind the scenes and upcoming tutoring options for families, we find our market to be receptive and our target audience to be highly inventive and creative — and we want to be the ones to cater to their educational needs.
The Learning Hub is on a quest and we look forward to more series of classes with curious students. With a little guidance from our SCORE small business mentor, Dan Ekberg, I think we might just have a fighting chance.
Follow Giselle’s inspiring story from the beginning: