This post is being written in the midst of a flurry of pre-camp activity. You will be reading this (hopefully) on the Monday of the first week of the 2017 Noctiluna Summer Camps, woohoo!!
My house looks like a crime scene (you know, the one where someone knocks off an art store, and their local Target, and then tries to hide the goods in their living room, dining room, garage, and kitchen). My mind is on constant overdrive (Paper towels, HDMI cable, bug spray, did I remember the sunscreen? Oh, and paper towels… and bug spray… wait, did I eat today?). My kids have gotten used to my muttering and glazed expression, and the local librarians raised their eyebrows again, when I took out my requisite camp book haul today.
But here’s the thing, I actually feel calmer this year. I’ve been doing this for about five years, and I’m beginning to feel like a veteran. I have a tried and tested system when it comes to getting ready for the camps and I’m going to be nice and share it with you.
Here are some things that I do beforehand:
- Use checklists, many checklists
Apart from the obvious list of art materials, running an art camp requires a host of must-haves, that make camp-life smoother, from wipes and band aids to plastic tablecloths and bug spray. I also make class lists and attendance registers for each week.
- Sorting the Art equipment
This is invariably when I realize how lazy I was after last year’s summer camps, and repeatedly curse myself for not being a more careful and conscientious person. I take inventory of all the art materials that are strewn all over my house, and stuffed into weird places, toss damaged and and empty items, and sort them into categories (drawing, painting, printmaking etc) before the packing begins. Sometimes there is crying involved, often Beyonce helps me get through it all.
- Packing the Bag of Fun
The Bag of Fun contains all sorts of outdoor play items including chalk, frisbees, jump ropes, and bats and balls. The kids look forward to seeing what is in the bag every year, and it helps break the ice during those first few breaks.
- Communicate with parents
I never leave anything to chance. I’m a parent, and I know how confusing kids’ summer schedules can be. An welcome email with pertinent information, is a must. Make sure no one is confused about pick up/drop of routines, or ways to get in touch with you during the day. This is also a great way to gather last minute information from parents about kids with schedule changes. As the Radiohead lyrics go, no alarms and no surprises.
Speaking of which, there is always a strong certainty that someone is going to want to play Freeze Dance at some point during the camps, so it’s useful to have a tween friendly playlist ready (or a handy teenage helper with an iPhone).
- Buy extra snacks
Because no matter what, there is going to be a kid who finishes his/her lunch and snacks, and extra snacks, and starts to openly eye your leftover lunch.
- Library run
I always take out a variety of books to have on hand. Some to do with the week’s themes, some for the kids’ recreational reading, some to read aloud to kids when they are tired, and of course, the obligatory audiobook (normally from the Harry Potter or Percy Jackson series) to soothe beasts on savage summer afternoons.
- Move into my space beforehand
I always set my classroom up the weekend before camp, and have it looking as organised and pretty as possible, so that I can walk in with a breezy swagger (and a bag of fifteen things I had forgotten) on Monday morning.
- The Talk
My kids attend my camp, so I’m in the unique and unenviable position of being a camp teacher and a parent of campers at the same time. it’s not easy, and every year we have to have The Talk about how to behave at the camp, and about mummy being everyone’s teacher, and having to give everyone equal attention etc, etc. This leads nicely to….
- Obsessive Lunch planning
When you run a summer camp, you don’t have the time or energy to stop and wonder what to pack for your brood’s lunches every day, and if you skip your own lunch, the kids WILL suffer. So I write out a detailed lunch and snack schedule ahead of time for every day of the week (for the kids and me). That way our groggy morning selves don’t have to do any serious thinking, and can get packing like robots.
That’s it for now. I have to go test my marker collection for next week (yawn). I ‘ll be back with updates of what the kids are creating every week! Fellow camp organizers, hope you found this useful (or at least amusing).