Hitting Refresh

It has been waaaay too long since I last blogged, and here’s why:

1: I really haven’t felt like I have much to write about, and I just don’t do that whole ‘writing for the sake of writing’ stuff. It would bore you to death.

2: School is out, my delicious munchkins are home, and when I hang out with the kids, I do it wholeheartedly.

3: Summer camp starts in just sixteen days (aaargh!), and every spare second I have is taken up with ordering materials, collating materials, emailing interns, tweaking lesson plans, visiting the school, and all the other little things that have to be done before the fun begins.

To be honest, I have found the past week refreshing. It has been nice hanging out with the kids and not worrying about schedules, homework, or school events. This is my time to recharge before the storm, where my brain hits refresh, and gets ready to handle the mighty Summer camp experience.

Summer Camp

Summer camp is really a beautiful thing for me. I love teaching, and kids, and art, and being a goof ball, and silly jokes, and making a mess, and freeze tag, and frisbee contests, and, well you get the idea, I’m a big kid. This year I’m even more ridiculously excited than usual because I reeeally like my curriculum. In fact, I am patting myself on the back about my curriculum, and I’m really bad at holding excitement in, so here are some things the kids are going to explore this summer:

Street art, Keith Haring, Sesame Street animations, Basquiat, Warhol, screen printing, the Day of the Dead, Poetry, Banksy, typography, Alexander Calder, mobiles and Stabiles, drawing with wires, sculpture with found objects, Galimotos, Miro, Mondrian, architecture, Bauhaus, graphic design, modernism, painting, Joseph Albers, optical illusions, Hundertwasser, board games, Nogaravin puppets, Enid Blyton, gestural painting, cardboard trees, creation myths, Native American legends, Pandora’s box, mosaic, collage, weaving, fractured fairy tales, Arthur Rackham, Kara Walker, illustration, dreams, fantasy art, Chagall, the principles of design, printmaking… and more.

Do you see why I’m excited? Do you? Stay tuned, I’m going to post pictures every week, but first, Independence day, popsicles and the beach beckon. Happy July 4th to everyone!

List of Awesome Art Resources for Kids (and You!)

In the process of planning out the Noctiluna Art camps for this summer, I have been discovering a lot of cool resources for kids (and, well, anyone who is into art). These are mostly cool books (I love my books, I love them so much it’s not right), with a few other things thrown in. I want to share these finds with you (whoever you are), because I’m feeling extra excited about using them this Summer, and I want to spread all the love and excitement around.

1.Harvesting Dreams; Hundertwasser for Kids – Barbara Stieff
This book teaches about the fascinating artist, Freidensreich Hundertwasser, (try saying that fast three times in a row) in a really kid friendly way. It is full of questions and quotes for them to mull over, and has great ideas for games, activities, and art that they can make.

2. Draw Me A House – Thibaud Herem
A lovely, lovely book. Full of graphic, visual examples of, well, everything to do with different kinds of architecture. I have used pages of this book for kids to draw on, to get their ideas flowing during my architecture camp. 

3. I Wish I didn’t have to Sleep – Keith Haring
This book has so many great starting points for discussions about Haring’s work, it is filled with comments and observations that children have made about Haring’s work, some are hilarious. I’m sure that it will help to loosen up tongues during discussions and critiques.

4. Go, A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design – Chip Kidd
Some of this book is a little bit complicated for my 6-10 year olds to navigate, but it’s a must for anyone attempting to teach anything about graphic design/typography to kids. Also it is written by someone called Chip Kidd- enough said.

5. Children’s Book of Mythical Beasts and Magical Monsters – Dorling Kindersley
My nine year old loves this book. I plan on reading a lot of myths to my campers, and exploring many ancient and classical cultures. This book has it all – monsters, gods, demons, heroes, magic. Once you pick it up you can’t put it down again for a very long time.

6. Meet The Artist, Alexander Calder – Patricia Geis
A spectacular book that makes you sigh at each page turn. Very interactive, lots of things to lift, pull, and play with. Lots of information.

7. Kid Made Modern (book and products) – Todd Oldham
There is a cool Mid century vibe to this book. The projects are all based on different artists/designers that I love, and have beautiful outcomes. In fact, I have fallen in love with the Kid Made Modern aisle at my local Target; so many drool-worthy art materials, kits and how-to pamphlets for kids.Go check it out.

8. The Art of Eric Carle – Philomel Books
I got this at a used book fair, and it is perfect for older elementary school kids to read to themselves. Eric Carle writes about his life and inspirations in a simple, clear way, and the color prints in the book are big, bright and beautiful. Perfect for a classroom.

9. This is…. Series – M.Sasek
I included this series because it is just so, so beautiful. The illustrations are gorgeous, and any book that teaches my kids  about other parts of the world, and gets them excited about traveling is a good book. I have the This is London, and the This is Paris, and they are both superb.

10. Felt Mosaic by eeBoo
Okay, this isn’t a book, it’s a game. It is a cheaper, and simpler version of the awesome Color Forms game, therefore, it is also a great way to teach kids about Bauhaus design. Also, it is a wonderful tool for developing hand-eye coordination and spatial intelligence. A little difficult for my five year old to do alone, but I think he will get into it next year. The nine year old loves it.

11. Crayola ‘my color is…’ set
Also discovered at Target. These little mixed media packs of drawing materials sorted by color are my daughter’s favorite thing right now. I’m thinking of making my own mixed media packs sorted by color for the kids to use this Summer. A great way to explore texture and line.

That’s it. Hope you found that list useful/entertaining/fun/a better alternative to a nap. The pictures below are in a very weird order. My computer is in a bad mood today, but at least I got this post out. Enjoy!

10 Tips for Running a Summer Camp

I have been running camps for four years. I’m no veteran, and four years may not seem a very long time, however, in those four years I have learnt a lot, and my camps have grown a lot.
This list of tips addresses issues big and small, and I hope it helps any individuals out there thinking of running a Summer camp. I can think of a lot more advice, but I thought I’d keep things short and sweet, and 10 seemed like a nice round number. If you want more tips, you’re just going to have to come over and have a cup of tea with me.

  1. Start planning early.
    Trust me on this. If your camp is scheduled for July, you need to start sending out emails and printing up flyers in January. A lot of the big camps start enrollment in March for the Summer (I know, it’s a crazy world out there), so you need to get the word out in advance. Also, the sooner you start planning out lessons the better.
  2. Send out a survey!
    Otherwise, you are basically stabbing in the dark when you plan out dates, times, and content for your camp. For heaven’s sake keep the survey short and relevant, no parent wants to spend ages answering essay questions on ‘your child’s strengths and weaknesses’.
  3. Stick to your strengths.
    Obvious really. If you are an art teacher, teach a Visual Arts camp, not a Math camp (unless you are an ex-Mathlete). I don’t teach kids younger than six years old, because I know that I am not an early childhood educator.
    In the same vein, don’t teach an age group, unless you genuinely like being around them, just don’t. Kids are smart, they can tell what you are thinking, and they will make your life hell if they sniff out that you are faking it.
  4. Quality not quantity
    If you are a one person business, don’t get greedy. Keep your camps small, or hire some help, otherwise chaos will ensue.
  5. Shout your philosophy to the world
    What is it you are passionate about? What makes your camp unique? Be honest and use Social Media to spread the word, and hopefully, like minded people will find you. Also, if you are clear about your philosophies from the beginning, you avoid misunderstandings with non-like minded people down the line.
  6. Ask every question possible
    I am not very business savvy, I’m learning things the hard way. This is something really important that I have learned. When you rent a space, make sure you know everything there is to know about it, no question is too stupid. Where are the restrooms? When will I get my keys? Where do I park? Can we eat in this room? Is it okay to make a lot of noise? Can we run up this hallway?Can we use that playground? Do you have WiFi? Who else will be here? Who are you? Where does that door lead? What is that stain? Ask all the questions, take their number, and then ask more.
  7. Camp is not school
    This is very important. Kids need to decompress too, so be flexible. Let them have long outdoor breaks, let them finish a project the next day if they are looking tired, or change the direction a project is going. Play things by ear,  goof around a little, keep things a little less structured than school, and everybody is happy.
  8. Wear Comfortable Shoes
    If you are teaching elementary school kids, trust me, you WILL end up playing Tag, or Soccer, or Ghosts in the Graveyard. Roll with it, enjoy the opportunity. Younger kids are very forgiving about lack of sport skills, and even the least athletic teacher can come out of this situation feeling good.
  9. Have Boundaries
    Despite all of the above exhortations to get in on the fun and games, you will also need your personal space from time to time. Make this clear when an eight year old asks you to play Boggle while you are eagerly opening up your lunch box. Also, do NOT give them your lunch, no matter how hungry they say they are.
  10. Word of Mouth matters
    If you run your camp well, and teach good lessons, and care about your kids, and believe in your own philosophy, and everybody has a great experience, well that’s really all the marketing you need. Good luck.

Viva Summer!

Welcome June.

I take a deep long breath as I write this. May was one hell of a month – craft festivals, birthdays, school events all clubbed together and squeezing me so tight that I could barely breathe, let alone blog about them. I’d like to move on, but first let me quickly tell you about ViVa Vienna…

On Memorial Day weekend, I sold my wares at ViVa Vienna, which is my absolute favorite fair of the year; not because I sell so well at it, but because it is such a happy event. It’s in my ‘hood’, which makes a huge difference – shorter commute, known territory, happier kids etc. I’ve blogged a lot about Vienna in the past, such as in this post, and this post, and I don’t want to keep repeating myself, but it can be a pretty cool place.
At ViVa Vienna, I’m always reminded of how many people actually care about me. People constantly drop by to see how I’m doing; friends help me set up and break down my booth, and sometimes bring me drinks and baked goods to keep me alert and upright. These small acts of kindness make all the work of selling at a fair seem so much easier. I also love all the familiar faces that pass by. Kids that go to school with my kids gape at me, and then smile as they walk by, kids who go to my camps stop by to make sure I’m not slacking, the barber from down the street scowls at me. I love ViVA Vienna.

Straight after ViVa Vienna, I got to work on planning my five year old’s birthday party. That happened on Saturday, Sunday was recovery day. Time to move on.

I have been totally ignoring my blogger duties, and hobbling through a lovely week of birthday celebrations and school events (standing at fairs can make your feet hurt for a really long time!). But enough is enough, the birthdays are over, my summer camp is looming large on the horizon, and I need to start writing again on a regular basis, so that I don’t totally lose it like a melted Popsicle.

This week I shall be ordering materials for my camps, and revising my lesson plans again, and writing another post, and getting ridiculously excited about all of the above in a way that only I could.

Of course there will still be end of school performances to attend, thank you cards to write, dentist appointments to keep, gym classes to attend, and bedtimes to enforce, but as my favorite literary cat, who got me through last week says “it’s all good”. 😉