Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sugar Cream Pie

As my readers know, I have come to love the small town of Greencastle, Indiana, with its mere ten thousand inhabitants. But today I discovered an even smaller town to fall in love with: Fillmore, Indiana, a few miles away, population 533.

I was invited to Fillmore Elementary by a wonderful new arts organization called Castle Arts, founded by Beth Benedix. The mission of Castle Arts is to bring rich, creatively stimulating arts programming into public schools suffering from budget cuts that are decimating their arts offerings. In this pilot year, some eighteen or twenty artists, many of them DePauw University faculty, have been going to tiny Fillmore Elementary (one class per grade level) to engage the kids in every kind of art imaginable: poetry, dance, classical music, songwriting, painting, sculpture, and more.

Today I spoke to seven, yes, seven classes, getting the kids to engage in an interactive activity around the writing principle "show, don't tell" and then to write their own stories showing a character's emotion or personality by placing him or her in a scene and letting a natural reaction unfold. Oh, and part of our charge was to integrate the science curriculum as well, so the students were writing about characters out on a field trip to gather fossils or to study the night sky through a telescope.

Much exuberant energy emerged. I have to admit I'm exhausted now. But it was really a wonderful day. For lunch the organizers and I hurried off to Fillmore's one restaurant, a charming little eatery called Bert & Betty's. I had half of an open-faced tuna fish salad sandwich on home-made sourdough bread as well as my first-ever slice of an Indiana delicacy I had never heard of before: sugar cream pie, a pie shell spread with layers of creamed butter and sugar, then filled with vanilla cream, and baked. Apparently it is supposed to be a dessert you can rustle up even when the apple bin is empty and your cupboards are otherwise bare.

I didn't end up adoring sugar cream pie, but I'm certainly glad I sampled it. I love sampling all things Indiana. I especially love sampling them on a rainy, green-green-green Indiana day when I've given seven talks to lively children who seemed to be as happy to have me there as I was to spend the day in their company.

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