Creative Partnership Serves Neighborhood Children

Cochran Chapel, founded in the mid-1800s on the Texas frontier, holds to the missions of the United Methodist Church, mainly to lovingly seek disciples for Christ.

Across town, the small business Studio Bella for Kids fosters creativity with activities that blend art, science, and technology.

(ABOVE: TOP: Cochran Chapel’s 9-acre wooded campus — with Bachman Branch passing through it — was deeded to the church in 1856. Courtesy photo by Cochran Chapel)

While the chapel is religious, the studio is not; it’s open to children of any denomination—or none at all.

Cochran Chapel and Studio Bella have forged a partnership, serving children from the neighborhoods near the chapel at 9027 Midway Road.

This strategy, said the Rev. Jeff Hall, aligns with the teachings of the 18th-century leader John Wesley, on which the Methodist Church was founded.

“That is because Jesus willingly and lovingly served us, we ought to lovingly serve our neighbors,” Hall said.

This summer, the chapel begins offering space for Studio Bella’s five-day summer camps, June 3-Aug. 2, for pre-k and elementary school kids.

Tammy Bardwell founded the studio 11 years ago in her backyard on Bella Vista Drive (hence, its name).

The first thing we learn about God is that God creates things. And if we’re created in his image, we are creative. -The Rev. Jeff Hall

(ABOVE: Studio Bella for Kids’ activities blend science, technology, engineering, art, and math.)

Growth spurred the studio to seek other venues, so it moved into space offered by White Rock United Methodist Church. Officials there introduced Bardwell to friends at Cochran Chapel.

Her sons, Michael, 18, and Thomas, 15, have also helped out. Thomas is working on renovating Cochran’s playground as an Eagle Scout project. Her husband, Ed, handles the website.

Bardwell, with careers in elementary education and graphic design, developed the studio’s programs with a blend of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (the “STEAM” approach).

“It’s a business that blossomed out of a passion for kids and creativity and really having them do some cool stuff,” she said.

“They get to make toys they can play with later, but they have to make it work. Like the kids who come to our Lego camp, we get them to figure out how things work without being told what to do.”

Another program involves caring for an animal.

“They get to adopt a pet worm,” Tammy said. “They probably never touched one, so it’s exciting and scary. But a parent came and told me that they kept their worm alive for six months.”

Cochran Chapel’s community outreach has, at times, not been a priority, Hall said. That changed with ministries to feed the homeless, provide winter coats and school supplies for neighborhood children as well as notes of encouragement for their teachers.

Cochran interior

“Frankly, we are a small congregation, with less than 120 members and about 60 active on a regular basis,” the pastor said. “But, if we are good at disciple-making, introducing people to the God who loves them, then church growth takes care of itself.”

The chapel’s congregation is excited to partner.

“Studio Bella wants to teach creativity and inspire children to learn about the world,” Hall said. “Well, as a church, we can fully get behind that.

“The first thing we learn about God is that God creates things. And if we’re created in his image, we are creative.”

Church History:

The Rev. Jeff Hall

Cochran Chapel’s 9-acre wooded campus — with Bachman Branch passing through it — is at the intersection of Northwest Highway and Midway Road. It’s the same property deeded to the church in 1856.

Some of Dallas’ earliest pioneers are buried in its cemetery, including the settler William Cochran. This mill operator from Tennessee served in the Texas Legislature and was Dallas County’s first elected clerk.

His widow, Nancy Jane Cochran, personally surveyed and deeded land for the chapel and its present-day campus.

The cost: $1.

The Rev. Jeff Hall noted that although many Dallas churches claim to be among the first in the county, historians confirm that Cochran Chapel was the first one built on deeded and dedicated property.

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