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The Cornhusk Nourishes Kernels of an Educational Experience

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you spot your child’s teacher trying to corner the market on cornhusks at the local supermarket, it’s probably got something to do with a 14-page booklet called “You Can Make Art from Corn.”

Created by Burbank design artist Mollie Doctrow, it is being sent to elementary schools in the area to facilitate the teaching of American art, history and geography, as well as nutrition by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The book covers myths about, and uses for, corn that the settlers discovered from American Indians, and tells how the settlers then figured out how to make popcorn, corn bread, corn cakes and corn soup, as well as cornstalk fiddles, pipes, hats and dolls.

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The booklet encourages, as part of the learning process, that the students make cornhusk dolls.

Doctrow says it will be distributed first to schools with a substantial minority population, then rolled out to all elementary schools.

According to Doctrow, who received a $35,000 City of Los Angeles cultural grant for the work, she began her commission by taking a trip to New Mexico where she met with American Indian artists and storytellers.

“They gave me information and often steered me to my next person or resource,” Doctrow says.

One of the more interesting parts of the book is why the traditional American Indian corn dolls have no faces.

According to Seneca Indian myth, it’s because Corn was one of three sisters who became vain and naughty. She was always looking at herself in a reflecting pool and was punished by the gods by having her face taken away.

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This myth is wasted on the pubescent. Ask any parent of a teen-age son or daughter.

They’ll tell you to whom this information should be directed. It should be required reading--posted in every family bathroom or room with a mirror into which any such teen-age-specific persons might stray.

Homeless and Hungry but Still Into Window-Shopping

Tracy Manns says she is a 22-year-old homeless woman who grew up somewhere in Michigan and came to Los Angeles six months ago to become a film star or a waitress.

The woman appeared to be clean, neatly dressed and as fully made up as a cosmetics counter saleswoman when she approached asking for a couple of bucks.

On a bench on the upper floor at Sherman Oaks Fashion Square, she told her story. She said she has no experience in either acting or food service and is now homeless, sleeping out of her car and surviving; too proud to call her mother for money and too poor to get back home.

She says she got to the Valley by driving her own car across the country.

When she arrived, she says, she had about $300 that she thought would get her a place to stay until she could find work. Now all the money is gone and she still has no place to stay.

For a while she shared space in Panorama City with a guy she says she met at the Palamino Club in North Hollywood.

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“He wasn’t interested in me,” though, she says calmly. “He just wanted me to help pay the rent.”

Asked how she spends her time, she says she walks around picking up stuff, and then hides her shopping cart full of newfound treasures and goes window-shopping.

Asked why she doesn’t go to one of the women’s shelters or get some guidance from an agency, she says she doesn’t want to be bothered filling out forms. She’d rather go window-shopping at the Valley malls.

Why the Valley?

“It seems safer here than in Hollywood or L. A.,” she says.

She said she panhandles for gas and food, and sometimes just takes the leftovers from a table in some restaurant.

“Glendale Galleria is a place that has tables open to the walkway where you can just reach over and take a roll off a plate, or some leftover hamburger and French fries,” he says.

Asked about her future, she says she has hope.

“I have an application in at some stores to do sales work,” she says.

Finally the questions turn on the questioner:

“How come you are so interested in what’s happening to me?” she demanded. “I don’t have such a bad life. There are a lot of actresses who had to do this. Actually, there are millions of girls around just like me.”

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Former Nun Moves Along in the Right Direction

Sheila T. Vaughan is a former nun who has devoted her life to children and has taught every level from grade one through graduate school.

She recently commuted to Toronto to deliver a paper at the 10th World Congress on Gifted and Talented Children.

Now it’s back home to where the real commuting never ends.

A native of Los Angeles, she was sent by her religious order to scout sites for a Catholic high school in Palmdale more than 30 years ago.

Once there, she was adopted by a cat named Puddy, which seemed like a good reason to put down roots in the community.

Besides, it looked like she had a steady job and there’s nothing better than working close to home.

She left the religious order and has spent the last 30 years or so commuting from Palmdale to the Mirman School on Mulholland Drive where she is counselor to 300 academically gifted students, as well as to UCLA where she is an instructor in the UCLA Medical School’s Department of Pediatrics.

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Overheard

Teen-age girl: “I get confused as to who is Beavis and who is Butt-head.”

Teen-age guy: “It’s OK. It’s really a guy thing.”

At Sherman Oaks Fashion Square

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