I have been kind of MIA from this blog for a little bit…but that’s because I have been really busy with my various endeavors. Last week, I co-ran a summer camp for kids ages 7-12 with the Drama Kids Program of Metro West. Dubbed The Self Esteem Tsunami, it was half-day drama/theatre and half-day art/creative expression which took place at The Cosmic Sister Studio in Holliston, MA. It was the first 45-60 hour week I have worked in just about three years…and I was WIPED! There is a huge difference between meeting with my anti-aging clients/making phone calls from the home office and running a camp for seven kids in sweltering 90 degree heat. But, it was the good kind of WIPED that comes from sweat, creativity, knowing you created something memorable from the bottom of your soul, and really making a difference in the lives of others.
This being my first-ever full-day camp, I was honestly quite pleased with the results. The partnership with Drama Kids worked really well, and this pairing has the potential to be HUGE if we can focus and put in some hard work. We also had a phenomenal group of kids; a great mix of ages, genders, talents, and confidence levels. Everyone brought something to the table at the beginning of the week, whether it was sense of humor, creativity, or leadership skills, and left at the end of the week with something extra.
Let me give you an idea on how the camp was structured. We chose a medieval/renaissance theme for the week. Part of the program was educational — talking about the medieval time period and what life was like back then. We drew parallels to movies they might be familiar with that also had a medieval theme (like Shrek). The goal of the drama portion was for the kids to create their own play based in the renaissance era. The goal of the art portion was to tap into their artistic side and create some things that woud have held relevance back then; like their own interpretation of a medieval character of their choosing (ex: a king/queen/jester), the creation of their very own coat of arms, and an upcycled castle/dungeon. They also collaborated on, and worked tirelessly toward, creating the scenery for the play and many of the props. Seriously, this camp was the perfect marriage of right-brained fun!!
The morning was devoted to drama with their mentors, Susie and Jen. The kids worked on projection of their voices (which I learned is quite different from yelling), stage presence and positioning, and engaging the audience. They worked on mini-scripts, which were short (often comedic), one-act scenes in which their tone, facial expressions, and body language did a lot of the talking for them. They did a poetic rap (called Sir Dance a Lot)…even ending with some beat-boxing and a big ol’ “WORD!” Their crowning achievement (no pun intended) was their creation of a very special version of Rumplestilskin. As an observer, I could see these kids transform in a short period of time. Some started out so unsure of themselves and by the end of the week, they were stealing the show. Some began the week with quiet voices and not much in the way of stage presence, but by Friday, they were projecting their little butts off…and having a great time doing it. Susie and Jen are wonderful at boosting the kids’ confidence, and have a particularly good knack for knowing the ways in which each child has the capacity to shine.
We had a generous lunch break so the kids could refuel and recharge (did I mention it was sweltering?). This was time for them just to chill out and “just be.” A lot of the kids paired up with the campers from the Cosmic Sister art camp and made some nice friendships. They created tee-pees in the yard from recycled materials, they beaded hair, and some even chose to do more art – like painting seashells and creating expressive canvases. Some of them even staged their own moment of silence and acted out their thoughts, complete with decorative duck tape. Rae from the Cosmic Sister is the coolest in the eyes of our campers, because one afternoon she arranged for a special visit from an ice-cream truck! Honestly, what tween wouldn’t be happy with that?!
The afternoons were the designated Self Esteem Through Art portion of the day. As I tend to do with the majority of my classes, I started camp most days with messages about self-esteem, bullying, confidence, random acts of kindness, and being happy with being yourself. These are good ice-breaker activities (ask the kids about the toilet paper activity), and help to demonstrate that no matter how different we all look and act, at our very cores we are all so, so similar. It doesn’t matter if you are 7 or 70, our main desires in life are to be heard, be understood, and be loved and accepted for who we are. So, we did a quick group activity at the beginning of each afternoon, and then it was time for the kids to get blissfully messy in their artistic endeavors. I have kind of a “freestyle” approach to my classes. That means that we have a theme and a project framework that the kids work on, but then I let them create as they see fit. I don’t think it’s fair to tell a young artist that leaves HAVE to be green, or that they MUST make a castle and not a dungeon, or that they WILL draw a king and not a jester. As I tell all my participants, regardless of age, there is no wrong way to do art. They main goal of these programs is to get kids participating, feeling confident, and understanding that art is a phenomenal way of expressing yourself – without having to say a word. Art doesn’t judge. Art has the capacity to heal. Art loves unconditionally. Art just IS.
So, mission accomplished. The kids left on Friday feeling uplifted, confident, successful, and proud of what they did. It was a great week and I want to thank Sandy for introducing Susie and me, thank Susie and Jen for collaborating with me and creating something fabulous, and Rae for letting us hold camp at her facility.
Securing space in Franklin has been a challenge for us (understatement of the year), so if you are a business who likes to invest in children, or if you have a space you could rent to us, please let me know. Kids *need* these kinds of programs….and we are more than willing to provide them!
As for me, my travels will take me to the Woodshed Gallery in Franklin from July 30 – August 3 for another summer camp. This one is art only, and is half-day by age. There are a few spots left if you want to sign up. You can contact the gallery directly to register (508-533-6277) — deadline is Saturday, July 21.