DALLAS A South Dallas afterschool program istakinga hands-on approach as it teacheschildren about Kwanzaa.The weeklong celebration runs Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.

Dancing to the beat of drums,children at the Exline Recreation Center's afterschool program are learning about Kwanzaa through stories and songs.

That is how I let them get a better awareness for Kwanzaa and makes it that more enjoyable ...that they enjoy it with song and as they sing it they remember it with the rhythms of the toos and the dance, said Melody Bell.

Bell is a professional griot, or storyteller, and explains to the children about the meaning of Kwanzaa through performance, including puppets.The kids love it.

It's very special and a very nice production and it's just playful and I really enjoy it, said 11-year-old D'Andria Robinson.

Sheand her friends are able to sing, dance and celebrate in a large part thanks to the Junior Players.' It's the oldest children's theatre in Dallas and provides creative alternatives for low-income children through the arts.

Kirsten James,executive director of Junior Players, said it gives many disadvantaged kids a chance to blossom,

We take our programs out in the communities toschools and recreation centerstheir neighborhoods. It's free and theyget hands-on learning, so they learn what it means to be in the arts, to work in a group, to learn communication skills andwork in all kinds of skills that translate into being a well-rounded student.

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