Babcock, Ewalt talk youth programs at porch discussion

JOSHUA BOUCHER | Staff Photographer
Matt Ewalt, associate director of education and youth services, and Sherra Babcock, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, discuss youth activities with Chautauquans at the Trustees Porch Discussion Wednesday at the Hultquist Center.

Education is one of the pillars Chautauqua Institution was founded upon. At Wednesday’s Trustees Porch Discussion, the emphasis was placed on the various options on the grounds for youth education and activities.

This season, Vice President and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education Sherra Babcock said there is a focus on creating more opportunities for children on the grounds who aren’t interested in participating in Boys’ and Girls’ Club.

“We recognize that, in an age where parents are looking more closely at the unique characteristics of their children, that Club might not be the right experience for every child here on the grounds,” she said.

Because of this, Babcock and Matt Ewalt, associate director of the Department of Education and Youth Services, have been attempting to make Special Studies classes available to children and teenagers.

“We have both stretched the Special Studies offerings for children and really looked hard at the curriculum and realized that half of our special studies offerings are open to kids on the grounds,” Babcock said.

In an effort to make these opportunities more prominent, Ewalt said a few changes have been made to the Special Studies catalogues and the green Special Studies inserts inside The Chautauquan Daily. These changes include placing youth class offerings in the front of the catalogue and adding a ‘Y’ next to any offering available to kids on the schedule. A special youth activities section has also been added to the green sheet listing family and youth activities available during the week.

Although not all kids are involved in Club, Ewalt said he hopes to create a camp-like experience for all children on the grounds so they can develop new friendships and become as comfortable on the grounds as the children who do go to Club.

“Just because they aren’t in Club doesn’t mean they can’t go get a western burger at the YAC,” Ewalt said.

For these children, a new program is being developed. Ewalt said two new youth activities counselors have been hired who will create programs for children who aren’t in Club.

On Sundays from noon to 3 p.m., these counselors will hold a family orientation on Bestor Plaza where new families can ask questions, register for Special Studies classes and meet Special Studies class teachers.

Throughout the week, the counselors will be coordinating activities to get the children familiar with the grounds and also providing a social activity so they can get to know other kids who are taking classes or doing activities aside from Club. These will not be activities that children need to sign up for.

“My hope is to provide more formal activities at the beginning of week and by the end of the week they will have developed friendships and will be doing more on their own,” Ewalt said.

There will be a more defined schedule of events for this program next weekend, and it will continue to grow throughout the summer.

Babcock also discussed her hope to provide more family programming like the father’s breakfast Wednesday morning. The breakfast was led by Tuesday morning’s lecturer, Michael Thompson, to go along with the week two theme “Boys Will Be Boys, Then Men.”

Ewalt said the breakfast was an opportunity for fathers to share the joys and frustrations of fatherhood in a safe and comfortable environment.

“We think that the topic of boys and the issues that boys are facing today is something that involves all of us,” Babcock said.

Chautauquan Amy Fox asked if a half-day Boys’ and Girls’ Club program could be put in place in order for more children to attend both classes and Club.

Babcock said that although there is no half-day Club program in place currently due to financial reasons, she hopes to have one in place by next year.

The Board of Trustees Porch Discussions occur every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. on the Hultquist Porch. Next week’s discussion theme is “Community and Faith” and will be led by Director of Religion Robert Franklin.