Mary Miller, a black belt in martial arts, normally spends her spare time teaching classes at the Basche School in Fort Wayne.
But, on a recent, sunny summer morning, she holed up in a conference room at the Waynedale branch of the Allen County Public Library, punching, kicking and shouting with a group of youngsters looking to learn a little more about karate.
As part of the library’s series of summer events, Miller played host to about 20 children and their parents, teaching them the basics of karate and its philosophies.
The session began with Miller leading the class in a round of jumping jacks; then some leg stretches, and the slapping of their hands in unison over their heads. Miller’s assistant, a boy named Skylar – clothed in a red robe with a green belt — stood next to her throughout the class, obeying her commands and shouting, “Yes, Ma’am,” afterwards.
The class mostly focused on basic martial arts moves and how kids could protect themselves from strangers and bullies. It was just one of a collection of summer activities centered right at the Waynedale branch this year.
Through June and July, the library, located at 2200 Lower Huntington Road, is offering a range of programs aimed to attract youngsters and adults, alike.
One of the library’s most popular offerings is the SPARK program, which encourages teens and adults to get the most from their summer by learning though engaging activities, presentations and reading incentives. SPARK stands for Science, Play, Arts, Reading, Knowledge.
Using charts the library provides, folks can keep track of the time they spend reading during the warm summer months. Children who track the most time reading can earn prizes, from books, to magnifying glasses, to egg shakers, to ear buds for teens.
For adults, the library offers a book club that meets once a month – on the second Tuesday of each month. Folks read a pre-selected volume, then get together to discuss the book.
Adults are also the target group for the card and board gaming group, which begins regular meetings on July 3rd, then on Mondays after that.
Teen readers are encouraged to try the library’s Wreck this Book seminars, in which old, discarded books are used to make arts and crafts projects. There’s also a writing class aimed at teens, as well as robot racing.
For families, the first Monday of each month is Family Fun Night. On those evenings, the branch hosts movies, games, and art activities the entire family can enjoy.
Another popular series of activities this year is the library’s PotterFest 2018, a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the release of the first Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
That program includes everything from a session on how to make Butter Beer; to making chocolate frogs; to wand making; and even jewelry making, where kids can craft a golden snitch bracelet.
“It’s a way to combat the Summer Slump,” said Steve McCord, the branch’s Teen Librarian. “We try to keep them entertained and their reading polished.” He said the programs are a good way to spend your time at the library.
“It’s a way to stay entertained during the summer,” said McCord, who’s been at the library since the year 2000. “It’s all just a way to keep people busy and happy during the summer.”
SPARK Summer Learning is funded in part by the Foellinger Foundation, The Friends of the Library and the Library Foundation, according to McCord.
A black belt since 2010, Miller has been teaching her martial arts classes at Allen County Public Library branches around the city this year. Having already visited the Monroeville, Little Tiger and Tecumseh branches, she said her Waynedale experience was a positive one.
“For a smaller library, this was a very good turnout,” she said. “You know, we can’t teach these kids to be like Bruce Lee with one class, but we can teach self-control, discipline and a little skill and confidence.”
For more about events and activities going on at the Waynedale Library, you can visit: www.acpl.lib.in.us/home/explore/locations/waynedale