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Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Using Centers at Art Camp


I had read about using centers in the classroom and the idea intrigued me! However, many of my lessons for my 2nd-5th grade students fit comfortably within my one hour class (including discussion and cleanup). So, I filed the idea of using centers away for later.


Using dollar store foil to create sculptures
(You can also supply pipe cleaners to use for arms and legs if you'd like).

Then, I was asked to teach art camp at Peabody Mill Environmental Center in Amherst, NH. I had two sessions: the first week with 5- & 6-year-olds and the second week with 7- & 8-year-olds. There was no set curriculum, so I needed to design an art & nature camp that would fill the time (9:00 am to noon, Monday through Friday) in a way that would allow the children to create art and take advantage of the beautiful, natural surroundings, and allow for free play and exploration. After all, this is CAMP and it is supposed to be fun!

So, the idea of centers came back out of the files!

As you can see in my previously published post on my art camp schedule, we had center time after we did our main art project. I chose to have three centers each day. One center was located inside and was with me. At this indoor art center, students worked on a smaller art project relating to the day's theme such as making clay birds in nests, making a bug bookmark, or doing a craft about tree rings. The art project at the center was one that would take about 10-15 minutes or so.

The two other centers were located outside on a covered patio. They were (sometimes loosely) related to the day's theme as well, but were self-directed play and exploration. I had a helper outside making sure things didn't get out of hand and that no one ran off into the woods, but other than that, the children were free to play at whatever station they were at.

Rules of the Centers:
  1. Stay with your partner at your center
  2. Play quietly and respect the toys
  3. When you hear the bell ding once, it is time to clean up and stand quietly
  4. When the bell dings the second time, move to the next station with your partner


Ideas for Centers:

  • Blocks (mine were wood-look foam blocks)
  • Build-a-bug toy
  • Plastic Critters (One day I had a bin of insects and another day I had a bin of reptiles and amphibians) with a plastic bin of water for the critters to swim in
  • Cloud dough or moon dough with various molds and scooping toys (too messy for my liking)
  • Bubbles
  • A fishing game with little fishing poles and plastic fish that float in water for the students to "catch"
  • Dauber-type paint pens with large pieces of paper
  • Clay (make your own so you can reuse it and keep in plastic bags between sessions). You can have the clay "as is" or give them the plastic bugs to press into the clay or use as reference when making their own bugs from clay

Building with a toy called "Exobugs" allowed the students
to reinforce what we learned about insects and create
some really unique bugs of their own!

How it worked:

Before we started, I walked them briefly through each center, explaining how to clean-up each center. Then we practiced with the bell (the highlight of the day!). Once in a while, I needed to remind a child to stay in his/her center or to finish picking up, but all-in-all it went great! I was able to spend some focused time with the children doing the smaller art project (this was a great time to have the children do a project that might be hard to do as a group due to multiple steps or different paces within the group). Using centers also broke up the "work time" so that the children weren't standing there listening to me walk them through two art projects the whole time--that would have been boring for them and frustrating for me!). By scheduling in some play time this way, the children were able to take a break and play on their own and with their new friends (we also had hikes, played games, and exploration time outside as well).

It was a great experience and something I will definitely do again!

Building blocks was popular with the children and my helper!

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