This week’s camp was all about the five senses, so the kids spent a lot of time being hungry (taste, and smell seem to be the all round favorite senses, hands down, no big surprise!).
We looked at Wayne Thiebaud’s heavily textured paintings of cakes and other desserts, and used palette knives to ‘frost’ our own paintings. We learned about Synesthesia, and discussed how artist, Wassily Kandinsky visualized sounds. The kids produced drawings of music, and sat bent over paper furiously scribbling to The White Stripes, Bob Marley, Tchaikovsky, and hot jazz. We learned about color theory and color symbolism. We drew objects, while feeling them, and not looking at them. We gawped at pictures of scarification, and body art, and made a horrible mess working with clay. We made a lot of horrible messes.
The campers loved ‘Lick and Lather’ – Janine Antoni’s chocolate and soap sculptures, and had some amazing insights about her work, which led to a need for an ice cream party (any excuse!). On Friday, we sniffed and identified different scents, and made little scent jars to take home and experiment with.
Yup, a lot happened, and that’s just the art. But, if you ask me, some of the most important learning happened during break times.
On Monday, after a morning of working indoors, I told my students to go out and play in the sunshine – “But, what should we play?” they asked me, “I don’t know, whatever you want to!” I said, “But, we don’t know what to play! they retorted, “This is boring, can you make up a game for us?”.
I refused flatly, and mercilessly threw them out into the wild jungle that is North American suburbia. What happened? Well it wasn’t pretty, there was awkwardness, sulking, whining and a few fights at first, but by the end of the week, the kids were begging for more play time. They made up complex games, hashing out the rules in long, drawn out negotiations, and bonded beautifully. They even organized an end of week performance, made posters by themselves, and practiced relentlessly for it the whole of Friday afternoon.
I think free playtime is really important for kids. Sure, teacher organized play activities have their merits – I often organize games and activities for my students, but I also often step away a lot during break times, and that’s when the good stuff happens.
Who needs a teacher looking over your shoulder all the time? Alone, kids learn to solve problems and counsel one another. Free play fosters the building of skills such as negotiation, team work, conflict resolution, imagination, creativity, and problem posing and solving. My classroom is almost always a better place after a long break. I remember devising so many new games during my long recesses at school, so let’s let our kids get a bit bored this summer, and see where it leads them!
If you are so inclined, check out Hopscotch, Hangman, Hot Potato, & Ha Ha Ha, the wonderful book I have photographed below; it is a great starting point for encouraging kids to just get out and do their thing! Also, There is a photo of a fabulous novel for kids, A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass, that teaches you about Synesthesia (I think that merits a post of it’s own!).