Thursday, August 23, 2012

Art/Nature Camp: Scheduling Play With 2nd & 3rd Graders

The second week of art camp, I taught a group of 7- and 8-year-old boys. Since the camp was art and nature, I designed our days (9:00 am to noon, Monday-Friday) to include exploration and instruction as well as having the boys create a major art project and a minor art project every day. The prior week, I had taught 5- and 6-year-olds and had used centers VERY successfully, but I didn't think the older kids would go for them (I could see them looking at me with raised eyebrows as I dinged the bell!). But I soon found that the boys enjoyed having some structured down time as well.

What a beautiful setting at PMEC!
Here are some of the boys doing what they LOVE the most--throwing rocks!

Revising the Schedule:

The schedule for these older boys was tweaked slightly. We started off outside with a hike or scavenger hunt. This time outside allowed for more extensive exploration (and much rock-throwing into the pond). I tried hard no to rush them. They were, after all, at camp and camp is supposed to be FUN! There were plenty of opportunities to point out things related to the day's theme and I carried magnifying glasses and their sketchbooks with me constantly throughout the week so they could draw the critters we observed out in the field. Many of the boys used their sketchbooks every day, some multiple times a day.

We then moved inside for a discussion as they ate a snack. After snack we did our big art project as a group. Once that was done, they could sit on the carpet and choose an activity to play with while I cleaned up and prepared for the next thing. Since the boys were a bit older, I didn't use the bell or make them switch center activities. The activities I kept on hand that were popular were:
  • Legos
  • Blocks
  • Matchbox Cars
  • Nature-related Books
  • Sketchbooks (they could free draw or use the magnifying glasses to observe and draw specimens)
  • Bubbles
I had the kids make their own sketchbooks (super-easy) and then we carried them
with us constantly to write observations, draw critters we found, do leaf rubbings, etc.
These are great because other pages can easily slipped in as needed.

The Second Art Activity of the Day:

While the boys played quietly, I would set up the second art activity of the day. One day the boys seemed to be playing well and not interested in doing more art (we had also done some sketching in the field), so I let them stay playing with their chosen activity. But, I found that the boys were happy to do a second project if they were allowed to play on their own for a while. This second activity was small and quick (lasting about 15 minutes) and wasn't as technical. One day it was making owls from clay, another it was making bug-themed bookmarks. This way, I was able to reinforce some ideas from the day, have them do a bit more art, but keep it relaxed.

Throwing Rocks (Lots of them!)

After the boys completed their second art activity of the day, we picked up and headed back outside! These boys were very interested in throwing rocks into the pond and streams onsite and looking for frogs and the resident snapping turtle, Bob, so I made time for that before they went home everyday--about the last half hour of each day. That way, they could leave on a high note and get some wiggles out before their parents arrived. The week went wonderfully and I think it was a nice balance of art, nature, exploration and play!

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