SchoolArts Room

Lessons from Summer Arts Camp

By Nancy Walkup, posted on Apr 7, 2015

During college, I spent my summers working for the National Park Service or Michigan State Parks as an interpretive ranger or “adventure ranger” as they called it in Michigan.  “Naturalist” is the title given to this type of work, but it is environmental education with hands-on and experiential learning at its heart.


 

 

 
Reflections on summer art experiences by Melissa Hronkin
SchoolArts May/June 2015
 
 
 
For the past three summers, I’ve gotten back to my Naturalist roots and collaborated with our local Community Arts Center to host a Summer Youth Arts Camp for students going into grades 3-6.  It is a week long day camp with an interdisciplinary bent rooted in the visual arts.  As coordinator, I was able to think up a theme for the camp and assemble supplies and guest artists to carry out the activities.
 
 
Ever-Changing Themes
The first summer’s theme was “Making an Impression” with an emphasis on printmaking and textures.  Day one involved working with clay and textured tiles, along with frottage or “rubbings.” A guest artist presented drumming and rhythms as an interdisciplinary connection.  We learned about drumming being a universal act as students explored simple percussion derived from words.  Potato prints, block prints, and stencils were explored as basic printmaking techniques.  Experimental water media rounded out the experience or visual textures and color.  The final day ended with an art show and performance for all of the students and parents. 
 
 
“Balancing Act” was last year’s theme.  Figures in motion sculptures, Matisse Collages, and Tai Chi were on the agenda.  Clay pieces were created for Calder mobiles and stabiles.  Shirts were dyed with Indigo to create white and blue patterns.  Life-size portraits were traced of bodies in motion and embellished.  Lunches are spent at a local park when weather permits.  The location of the arts center limits our outside time, but sidewalk chalk lets the town know that “art camp is in session!” 
 
 
“The Creative Connection: Arts & Science” is this coming summer’s theme.  Students will explore the relationship between the arts and science by working on projects that involve clay, paint, dye, cyanotype, drawing, and writing.  Projects will be inspired by such works as Leonardo DaVinci’s scientific drawings and inventions, John James Audubon’s bird drawings, Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings, and Rube Goldberg’s machines.  Poetry and clay frogs, machines, and nature prints will be just some of the projects explored.  Bringing local artists and specialists in to teach for an hour here and there introduces students to artists in and around our community. 
 
 
Reflections
Although summers are precious, especially here in Upper Michigan where we have just three months without snow, these intensive arts camp experiences have really challenged me to think differently as a teacher.  In my full time elementary job, we see students for 55 minutes one time per week.  It can take months to complete a complex project and time is always a struggle.  In my school, each student gets 33 hours of art per year.  Art camp gives each student 25 hours of contact time in one week.  They get to experience almost a full year’s art curriculum during summer day camp.  Art camp breaks down the boundaries of time and subject matter, indoors and outdoors, art ultimately, art and life!
 
 
Melissa Hronkin is an art teacher in Houghton Portage Public Schools and was the 2014 NAEA Elementary Art Educator of the Year. m_hronkin@hotmail.com