Two ideas

1. Endless art

Endless art was a free Friday activity that I taught on the third week of camp. All the little artists were really looking forward to this one, as was I. Each child got a fat stubby roll of white paper, and well, anything was possible from there. Using the seemingly endless roll the kids could draw whatever they wanted- a treasure map, outer space, smiley faces, snakes, song lyrics, scribbles. I suggested that they could hang the paper in their room like streamers! Or wrap themselves up in it and be living art! Or, keep it as a sketchbook and try to fill up the whole roll this summer! 

 

2. Message Stones

Market day is one of my favorite traditions at camp. It is a day when everyone trades their artwork. Each year the campers make something different- clay beads, pet rocks, finger puppets, beaded insects, etc, then try to trade and barter with each other to collect the most beautiful, humorous, or sparkly works of art. It is kind of like a camp version of silly bands, or magic cards, or pogs. This year, for our theme of Boom, Bang, Blast, I taught the kids how to make message stones. A message stone is a small painted ball of clay with a hidden message inside. To find the message you must break open the dry clay ball. It’s kind of like a more aggressive and inedible fortune cookie. The message is put into the clay while the clay is wet, then when the ball has air dried it can be painted, and eventually traded and broken!

 

FREE FRIDAY

The first Friday at camp is called "Free Friday". Free Friday is completely different from all the other days at camp because the kids get to pick what they want to do. We offer a ton of choices, all of which are really crazy and fun, and not following the theme. On Free Friday I am not confined to the art room. This is my chance to teach something completely different. If it is not art or design, than I am typically drawn towards "pretend play". Pretending kind of doesn't need a teacher. I can let the kids lead me, then play off of their comments and questions. I love this.

My classic Free Friday pretend workshops- Junior Office and Potion Making, were put aside for some new potential favorites- Mud Kitchen and Pet Shop.

The idea for Mud Kitchen actually derived from last years Mud Pies workshop. This year I boosted up the idea, expanded our business you could say, to include not only pies but soup, lasagna, cookies, coffee, and whatever else the kids could come up with. We set up a make-shift sink with a watering can, an oven outlined in chalk, and a pantry full of collected ingredients. Camp is the perfect place, if not the only place, for a Mud Kitchen workshop. It's okay to make a mess. It's okay to use your hands. It's okay to use all the dirt in the bag because it will be easy to find more. It's even okay to throw your pie as far as you can. The kids know what to do, but I give them little hints and tips: Try adding some pepper, these pebbles look like blueberries, I think you need the egg beater. Sometimes it's more of a warning: Don't forget to turn the oven on! Don't forget about the food in the oven! Mostly, I give compliments: mmm, that looks delicious, you're a mud expert, I love the chocolate filling, did you know you were such a good cook?

The Pet Shop workshop was in collaboration with other camp specialists. We came up with the idea to lead a class based on pets- both pretending to be a pet, and making things for your pet. As a camper, this would have been my absolute favorite workshop. So many kids, including myself, are obsessed with cats and dogs. We made giant pom poms out of yarn that were attached to strings and sticks for the kitties to play with, and we braided felt tug toys for the pups. We decorated bandannas and created some no-bake dog treats. My dog Oliver dropped in to visit too! We painted noses black and tried out our best "meow". The workshop ended with bowls full of mushed up ice pop, that the kids were allowed to lick up. 

 

In love with crayons

Crayons are an every day part of my life at afterschool. The kids know that I have my own philosophies about crayons. I’ve been known to take in a deep inhale of the crayon box (a square tin, that has probably been storing crayons for at least 5 years), and breath a sigh of happiness. The scent is strong and old, waxy and sticky. I imagine it is the scent of all those colors mixed together, like the colors can create a smell. If you are nearby, I’ll make you take a whiff. 

I love crayons because they are not precious- they last nearly forever, they don’t dry out, and if it breaks, well, now you have two! You can be rough on crayons. You can afford to toss a straggling crayon in the trash can. You can turn the little leftover bits into homemade swirly awesome crayons. 

Crayons are increadibly versatile. You can unwrap the paper and roll the crayon to create a rubbing. You can draw thick and heavy then scratch into the crayon to create another layer. You can use them in a resist technique, like when dying an Easter egg. You can easily blend colors or create bold outlines. Melting a crayon lends itself to all sorts of other possibilities.

As tough and complicated as a crayon is, there is still something very endearing about crayons.  They are the epitomy of innocence and childhood. The smell of a crayon, or the feel of a crayon in my hand, instantly brings back childhood memories. Drawing with crayons, when I was as young as 3 or 4, marks the very start of my lifetime love of drawing and art. 

The kids at afterschool are always asking me to draw them pictures. I say, “if you get the crayons, I’ll draw the picture.” Often, another kid will over hear us and offer a warning, “she draws really good, but she might break your crayons!” I say, “crayons are meant to be broken.”

 

Here are examples of Kindergartners crayon journals: