Tags: Camp, Education, Featured Story
It’s a common sight to see your four-year-old scampering around the living room wearing her ballet tutu layered over her blue jeans. After watching hours of “American Idol”, your son wants to take singing lessons. Your kindergarten finger painter has grown into a teenager interested in Georgia O’Keeffe. Whether there’s organic intrigue in the arts, or you’re trying to drum up some, Kern County offers a great variety of summer activities for your camper to gauge their interest in dance, music, acting, painting, ceramics, and even songwriting.
The arts focus largely on individual achievement and abilities to perhaps transform a canvas, a block of wood or a string of notes into a personal masterpiece. Visual and fine arts can offer an opportunity to think outside the box in a safe, creative environment. Campers can find a fresh way to imagine, invent, conceive, and think.
An Artist’s Journey
Some children are not going to enjoy academics or sports but they might shine in a different activity in the world of fine arts. All of us process information differently using one of the three major styles of learning: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. In a fine arts camp children have a chance to experience all three kinds of learning. This unique combination of learning and creative expression teaches them a myriad of life lessons that they won’t find in a traditional classroom setting.
Zane Smith, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County, says their art program teaches their members many important life lessons. Not only are they learning art technique and instruction, but they are also learning how to succeed in life.
“Our Boys & Girls Club art program is designed to nurture creative talents; explore a wide variety of mediums; and experience success in a non-competitive environment,” he says. “Furthermore, our children learn to problem solve, commit to a process, and express a vision in another format for communication. These are all valuable lessons/skills that impact education, self-confidence, and quality of life for children in our program.”
Thinking Outside the Box
A camp experience focused on the arts has some of the same benefits as one designed for physical fitness. It improves hand/eye coordination and increases self-awareness and self-worth. Ashleah Welch, former artist in resident at American Elementary, says art can also help sharpen a child’s fine motor skills. “Having control over a paintbrush or a pencil helps with fine motor skills that can definitely help kids in other areas like sports, or even academics,” she says.
Many parents find the arts invaluable for a child who thinks outside of the box. Being free and having less restrictions can aid in creative expression and growth. This type of experience can be a chance for your child to color outside the proverbial lines.
Welch says she loves how art teaches children to think more about the world around them. She taught them about Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Pollock, and many more famous artists. “I love how art exposes children to a world bigger than themselves. They are learning about artists from different countries and what made those artists stand out, what made them different at that time,” she says. “This helped when children created their own pieces and all their pieces were different. It made them aware of people’s differences.”
As a mother of three children, Welch has already started teaching them about art and art history. She and her five-year-old recently spent a warm, sunny afternoon in their backyard with a tarp and cups of different colored paint; and they painted Jackson Pollock-inspired splatter style.
“It was good, messy fun!” she says.
Expect the Unexpected
Most parents are unaware that skills from other academic areas are essential to succeed in the creative arts and humanities. The arts are very cross-curricular and often are the impetuous for improvement in students who are not academically inclined to do better.
Welch says she would see children who might not excel at reading and writing but would end up creating the most beautiful piece of art. “Art can really level the playing field as far as ability within the class. For a child who is having trouble with focusing and tracking when reading might succeed at a more tactile approach to art and working with that medium,” she says.
Teaching students from grades Kindergarten through sixth, Welch said she was most often surprised by the youngest ones’ artwork and their creative expression. “In the Kindergarten classes I would give them step-by-step instructions, and I was not overly anxious to give them too much freedom. I felt they needed a lot more direction. The kids would offer suggestions, and my first reaction was, ‘Oh! Wait a minute.’ But, what they came up with was so much better than what I could have thought up,” she says.
Sometimes the older students were more interested in creating the artwork to exact specifications. So, to loosen up their creative juices, Welch cranked up the tunes, especially when she taught them about Kandinsky. She taught the kids to paint or draw to the rhythm just like he did. “As they were drawing their lines to the rhythm of the music, they were forced to loosen up and do what the music did,” she says.
Creating Lifelong Memories
Artwork made from these kinds of camps or classes can become treasures for the whole family to enjoy. Welch says she frames a lot of her children’s artwork or even puts it up on their refrigerator door. “It’s important for the children to see what they have created is of value and it’s important to take pride in their work,” says Welch.
In addition to treasured artwork, being involved with art and the artistic process can create lifelong memories and attributes. Local, award-winning artist Aliza McCracken says artistic expression is a worthwhile investment of time, energy, and resources.
“‘The arts play an essential role in nurturing child development. While honoring the creative process, many valuable life skills are enhanced such as: spiritual worth, a positive attitude, harmonious relationships, empathic communications, clarity of decisions, heartfelt perseverance, community wellness, and service,” she says. “So enjoy the art of living!’’
Freelance writer Claire Yezbak Fadden is the mother of a camp counselor known as Lefty. Follow her on Twitter @claireflaire. Vaun is the mother of three kids who are looking forward to the summer experience. Next month: An inside look at technology, science and education camp.