Monday, August 12, 2013

What I Learned at Renaissance Camp

Today was the first day of Renaissance Camp, an all-day historical immersion camp for kids aged five to twelve, with the program where I teach. I am the art teacher, which means I get one hour with each of the four groups of children to create a Renaissance-inspired art project.

Today we made papier mache gargoyles. We talked about what gargoyles are and what their purpose on buildings is. Most kids said gargoyles were put on buildings to protect the buildings from demons. Some kids said gargoyles helped to siphon rain water from buildings. A couple of kids talked about rain water gargoyles being constructed so that it looked like they were peeing. Kids love bathroom humor. Of course, all the things they said were true.

We talked about papier mache and how the strips of paper dipped in the glue mixture (I used Mod Podge and water) can be used to attach pieces such as wings or heads together, or can be smoothed over crumpled newspaper to change the texture of the piece.

Kids will teach you things. I always learn great stuff from kids -- valuable life lessons. Today I learned that papier mache is a very difficult craft for a kid with OCD issues. I also learned that if you ask said kid with OCD issues HOW to help him, rather than forcing him into a papier mache cage, the kid can get through the art project without shedding a single tear. The tears were on the horizon, but we combatted them with empathy and active listening.

I learned the benefits of not getting angry at a six-year-old who tips over a bucket of Mod Podge and water, dousing herself and her neighbors. You see, the bucket was too tall and the six-year-olds too short to get the paper strips properly coated in mucilage. She was just trying to follow my instructions on getting the paper saturated. I also learned that resourceful six-year-olds will dip their paper strips in the spill on the table, thus soaking up the spilled glue while ensuring not to tip the bucket a second time.

I learned (on two occasions) that guessing someone's gender is sometimes a tricky endeavor, so it's probably better to ask the person's name before assigning them a gender. I erred on the side of caution and asked names first. Good thing I did -- my initial impulse was wrong on both counts!!

I learned that one back-up activity is not always enough. I dodged the heartache of trying to get a five-year-old to write in calligraphy by having some drawing paper and markers at the ready for free drawing.

But most importantly, I learned that the attention that I pay to children is often repaid with very sticky hugs and beautiful drawings for my refrigerator. I came home with two pieces of art for my personal collection!

It was a big day for me, education-wise. I wonder what those kids will teach me tomorrow.

That's all the news for now. I'm off to the Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood. You should come. It's Wally's last night. Until next time, my dear ones, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!!

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