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Kids' club discovers it's a small world

March 26, 1999|By ANDREA ROWLAND

KEEDYSVILLE - A group of area youngsters recently took a three-hour journey designed to give them a taste of British culture and cuisine.

Armed with fake British Airways tickets, some 50 area youngsters greeted the "king" at the door to Salem United Methodist Church in Keedysville.

The king was a volunteer in a paper crown. The kids were members of the Friendship Club.

The second Thursday of each month, members from four churches in south Washington County invite youngsters to explore different countries by sampling their food, art, literature and games, said Ruth E. Rowe, program coordinator.

The new program, the Friendship Club, is free, and participants say it's a lot of fun.

"We get to make new friends," said Amber Benson, 10, a fifth-grade student at Myersville Elementary School.

"We eat and play games and have a good time," added Jacob Gray, 8, a third-grader at Boonsboro Elementary School.

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Open to all children in kindergarten through fifth grade, the group meets each month from 3 to 6 p.m. at the host church, which rotates, Rowe said.

Salem, Benevola, Mount Nebo and Mount Lena United Methodist Churches have signed on so far, she said. Several other churches have expressed interest in participating in the future, Rowe added.

"Beyond learning about different cultures, our goal is to share God's love," said the Rev. Ken Fizer, pastor at Salem United Methodist.

Rowe said the churches joined with Benevola United Methodist, which has hosted a similar program for several years, to obtain a grant from the regional United Methodist Board of Child Care.

At the first club meeting in February, attendance tripled from the highest number of kids ever hosted at Benevola, Rowe said.

"The turn-out has been better than we ever expected," Fizer said.

A volunteer network offers after-school transportation from Boonsboro, Greenbriar, Pleasant Valley and Sharpsburg elementary schools, but children from all areas are welcome, she said.

"We want to reach out beyond the kids in our churches to other kids in the community," said volunteer Nancy Fizer.

At the start of the March meeting, club members enjoyed a traditional English snack: fruit tarts.

The chef was as authentic as her creations.

Though now living in Boonsboro, Marian Lutz said she is originally from Essex County, England. She found the tart recipe in a cookbook at Oxford University.

Lutz said the lemon, strawberry and grape tarts were "the kind the Queen of Hearts made in 'Alice in Wonderland.'"

While the British cook prepared the evening meal of shepherd's pie and carrots in the kitchen, club members participated in cultural crafts, games, songs and stories.

The children sang such songs as "London Bridge is Falling Down" and "Ring Around the Rosie" with gusto, but Lutz said the English tunes had ominous roots.

"A lot of British nursery rhymes are political," she said.

A deadly smallpox epidemic spawned "Ring Around the Rosie," Lutz said. The "ring" symbolized the pox mark, and the lyric, "pocket full of posies," meant the bouquet placed on the victim's grave.

England is noted for its many cathedrals, and club members made colorful stained glass windows with tissue paper, scissors and glue.

Matt Howe, 7, of Boonsboro Elementary School, said making the craft was his favorite part of the meeting.

"I'm going to be an artist when I grow up, but maybe I'll be an engineer," he said.

As the children formed a large circle in the church sanctuary to listen to stories, the noisy excitement simmered down to a low hum of anticipation.

All eyes were focused on storyteller Chris Stefanizzi, of Smithsburg, as she spun tales of princes and peasants, trolls and gold.

Stefanizzi said she read 40 to 50 stories in search of two tales that would provide history, learning and morals.

She said the trick to holding children's attention is variety and contrast. Animated body language and theatrical dialect keeps storytelling fun and interesting, she said.

"It's a lot of fun," Stefanizzi said. "You just have to be willing to go out on a limb."

As the storyteller's last moralistic tale unfolded, the scents of dinner wafted up the stairs. By 5:15 p.m., the children had worked up an appetite.

Kindergartner Kenny Kopp, 6, and second-grader Jimmy Horner, 7, both of Boonsboro, had no idea that meat and potatoes, not apples and cherries, comprised shepherd's pie, but they were ready to find out.

"I'm hungry," Horner said. "And I love surprises."

After singing "Johnny Appleseed," the group sat around six tables topped with Union Jack flag placemats. Volunteers put warm entree dishes at the center of each table, and instructed the visitors to England to hold their forks in their left hands.

The left hand dining style was a major challenge. Giggles filled the room as carrots and potatoes missed mouths and landed on plates.

"I hope at the next country we can eat with our right hand," Howe said.

The Friendship Club will explore Egyptian culture at the April 8 meeting.

For more information, call 301-416-2323.

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