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Summer 'Scapes Art Camp at Longue Vue House and Gardens: Week 1

This summer I was back down in New Orleans teaching art at 2 different summer camps. For my first two weeks of work I was over at the beautiful Longue Vue House and Gardens makin' art with kids and enjoying the "Lucy C. Rousse Discovery Garden."

The Discovery Garden is AWESOME. It has a giant sundial where your own shadow tells the time; an area with mini wheelbarrows, wagons, and rakes where children can play "landscape"; huge garden beds with edible plants and herbs; various citrus trees; a mysterious-feeling shaded bamboo grove; a composting area; a resident turle; and a giant watering can sculpture.

My first week at Longue Vue's Summer 'Scapes camp was with 5-7 year olds. I started the week on a positive note and emphasized the idea of community in our classroom. With an abundance of yarn and an idea inspired by a friend from graduate school, the campers and I sat around the sundial circle and played a getting-to-know-you game.

I tied the end of a ball of yarn around my wrist, said a little factoid about myself, and everyone else who had that thing in common raised their hand. I threw the ball of yarn to one of them, which they then wrapped around their wrist and shared a new thing about themselves, and passed it to someone who had that thing in common. By the end, we were in a giant web of yarn connected by our wrists. After everybody was part of the web, we snipped the yarn and tied off our new "community bracelets" that represented our connectedness as a class.

*Plus you get to make a wish when they fall off!*

I still have mine on 4 months later...

We talked about the importance of artists' sketchbooks and the kids learned how to bind their own. The counselors had prepped some long paper by folding it in half and punching 3 holes along the binding edge. The campers then each got a plastic needle and their choice of yarn. I demoed putting the yarn through the needle, a basic bookbinding stitch, and how to tie off the end. They used the sketchbook for the rest of the week during free draw times or to respond to certain prompts I gave them, like "draw a picture of what you like to do on a hot day."

One of my favorite projects that we did was inspired by the artwork of Eric Carle. I know using Eric Carle with Elementary age kids isn't novel, but I loved reading about his process and personal history in The Art of Eric Carle. I didn't really use this book much during the actual lesson, but it helped me have a better understanding of Eric Carle as an artist and author. Although he usually uses tissue paper collage in his illustrations, I really wanted to incorporate natural materials into making textured paper, so I had the campers make their own papers a little differently. It was a long process that I scaffolded over a few days.

On the first day, we talked about primary colors. I showed the kids a video (one of my personal favorites), of the band Ok Go singing about the primary colors on Sesame Street. It's amazing. And I warn you... if you watch this video (which you should because it's a stop motion video and a catchy song about color theory) it will be stuck in your head for hours. You're welcome.

After playing the video a few too many times, and a little singing and dancing, we went back to the outdoor classroom (That's right. OUTDOOR CLASSROOM.) to do some primary color paintings. Each camper got 3 pieces of painting paper. We had 3 tables prepped: the red table, the yellow table, and *you guessed it* the blue table. The class rotated between tables to paint each one of their papers a different primary color.

The next day, after a little refresher about the secondary colors (and another opportunity to watch the above video), we mixed purple, green, and orange paint as a class. It was one giant magic trick and campers who were being particularly well behaved got to be the magical paint stirrers. Once we had mixed our secondary colors, I demoed the process of making textured paper by dipping natural materials into wet paint and making marks on our (now dry) primary color paper.

Campers went on a nature walk in the garden to collect their own materials to use as "texture" brushes. They could only pick up things that weren't alive and were already on the ground (sticks, fallen leaves, pinecones, stones, etc.). It was a fun little hunt, and the kids found some cool objects to use as paintbrushes. I saved their texture tools to display at the exhibition on Friday.

On the third day, our primary/secondary color texture paper was dry and it was time to collage! First, we read Carle's The Very Busy Spider.

After our storytime, the kids made their very own "busy spiders." They each had their 3 sheets of textured paper that they painted during the previous 2 days, and I demoed how to cut and glue a fence post, a spiders body, and 8 legs. I also showed them how to draw a spider web in pencil, and told them that they could add any other collaged details that they wanted.

Once they finished the collaged elements of their artworks, they used crayon to add a background (which in hindsight I would have had them do first). The final touch was googly eyes because who DOESN'T love googly eyes? All of the artworks looked different and unique and the kids were so proud of them.

Other projects included Andy Goldsworthy-inspired land art...

Home-made scratch art self portraits...

and symmery paintings with oil pastel...

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