Thursday, May 6, 2010

Art Camps
Christy Hartman

I was listening to a popular morning news program the other day and heard that because of the economy families are looking for alternatives to sending their kids to summer camps. I had to laugh because I was that “alternative to summer camp” for years providing summer art classes and programs for my students and my own children over the years. I have taught countless students over the years in my summer art classes’ enhancing their art education and providing fun meaningful activities for students who were interested and motivated. Little did I know that my attempt to make a little extra vacation money would become the new in thing to do, if you are interested in providing quality children’s programs for “children” of any age let me help with a few suggestions.

Over the years I’ve developed projects that I’ve used in my classroom at school as well as in my summer programs that are engaging as well as age and fine motor skill appropriate. I’ve listed some of the criteria that I’ve developed that I feel make a successful program work and run efficiently.

A Few Suggestions to Ensure a Successful Program
1. Design projects that have a high level of interest but allow for individuality. Nothing stifles a child’s natural creativity than doing a cookie cutter one size fits all project, include project requirement that describe materials used, techniques to accomplish the project, proper use and care of materials, and safety. Each child should be aware of these in advance of beginning the project. Integrate a wide variety of materials and art forms to keep the interest level high always making sure that you respect the child’s right to be creative within the project requirements/guidelines.
2. Projects can be developed around a theme or a general idea.
a. Pirate Theme: treasure maps, treasure chests, masks, pirate faces.
b. Nautical Theme: design sailing ships based on historical facts or can be whimsical as well, sea monsters, animals of the deep.
c. Fairy Theme: more appropriate for girls but can include characters from popular books and movies, environment that they live in.
d. African Theme: design African Tribal Masks, musical instruments, animals from the different regions, puppets and toys.
e. Caribbean/Tropical Theme: palm trees, dances from the region, tropical fruits, animals, clothing.
f. Nature Inspired: Trace around a variety of leaf shapes found on trees or plants repeatedly to form an abstract design or a leaf character. Use actual leaves and plants in the design.
3. Bring in anything that can motivate and inspire children’s creativity, books, art
prints, stuffed animals, movies.
4. Design projects using the National Art Standards as your guide. These are designed to aide teachers in developing projects and accessing achievement and progress but would also be beneficial to anyone interested in developing a well balanced program and can be found online at
5. Supply good quality materials, as you can afford, such as paints and brushes. Children are no different than adults, they appreciate good quality materials. The job of being an artist can be frustrating if they lack the appropriate materials.
a. Prang makes Metallic and Glitter Watercolor Paint sets that are fun for kids to experience and experiment with.
b. Watercolor Pencils. As I stated in my previous column watercolor pencils are an inexpensive way for kids to easily paint on site.
c. Digital Cameral to record images for later reference and there are many inexpensive options.
d. Field Guides to identify plants and any animals/birds that you might see on a nature walk. Identifying native plants is a fun educational opportunity.
e. Dynasty Brush carries a wide variety of brushes that are kid tested and teacher approved. I’ve tested many of these brush sets with my students at school and I know that they are teacher approved.
6. Have a behavior plan decided upon before a student sets foot in your space. Discipline should be minimal but having a well thought out plan alleviates the stress of “what if” for both you and the student. This should be discussed with the students in advance and follow through is necessary to be successful.
7. Be well organized. Nothing creates chaos quicker than spending too much time looking for your materials.

If you are a parent/teacher and are looking for activities for your child/students over the summer look online at any educational supply company, many of them have a variety of quality activities designed by teachers using a wide variety of materials that meet the criteria listed above or go to to find projects that I have designed for children of all ages. Have a wonderful summer.

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