Well, we've reached the end of our first week of arts camp. You may have thought I'd fallen off the planet, but in truth, I have just been running up and down three flights of stairs in between doing art with fifteen-twenty 4-11 year olds.(Technically camp is for 6-14 year olds, but we've not been pulling in older kids, and we've been allowing a few younger siblings to come with older ones if the older ones are responsible and mature enough to help their younger sib out.)
My husband is the director of the camp for the third year, and while in previous years I have helped out occasionally (and mostly behind the scenes) this year a lack of volunteers has meant I am in the thick of things. That would be in the thick of excited, wiggling, yelling, laughing, joking, mostly fairly attentive kids who have varying degrees of interest in art, but who are mostly just happy to be there. It's been fun to welcome them -- a lot of them returnees -- and to watch their creativity blossom.
We've been doing art projects inspired by different world cultures each day. Turkey, Morocco, the Vikings, Mexico, and China were this week's cultures. We've done projects with paint, paper, yarn, clay, cardboard, beads, pen and ink. Some of the kids have produced some pretty cool things.
A few observations I've made this week -- in no particular order.
Ministries need prayer. If we weren't steeped in prayer, things would probably have been a lot crazier than they have been, especially with not enough staff. We're on a real shoestring in all kinds of ways this year, and I've been enjoying seeing the ways God is at work -- sometimes before we ask. My favorite prayer instance this week came yesterday. We had just found out that the pizza place that normally donates free pizza for our park event with the campers and their families each week could not do that this year. They cut us a deal for half-off, which we appreciated, but we had no $ for pizza in the budget. We decided to announce the park event anyway, and before the end of the day, a local family/friends of the camp had donated what we needed to cover this week and next. When I got home and checked my email, I found a message my husband had sent me in the morning (but which I hadn't seen) informing me of the need and asking me to pray for God's provision. I found myself very grateful that God doesn't need to check his email (but even if he did, he'd stay on top of it).
Ministries need people. Heads, hearts, hands, and feet. There is a lot of work to be done in a ministry like this, most of it not glamorous. Carrying things up and down the stairs, setting up and cleaning up messy art stations, handing out snacks, making sure the kids wash their hands and don't poke each other in the eye or drive each other completely nuts with teasing (or screaming). Ministries with kids need people who can be really patient and who can encourage kids who are timid and nervous and think they can't do something as well as help calm down kids who feel a need to be running things and in other kids' faces. We've been blessed with the help of one family who is very good at all those things -- the unglamorous work that has to be done and the ministry of encouragement.
Ministries need money. I know, I know, it's obvious, but boy, is it true.
Kids need encouragement of different sorts (see above) depending on the situation and the kid. And wow, is it ever true that age makes a huge difference in how a child approaches a learning situation. One of the things that's fascinated me this week is watching the difference in the very youngest campers (the four, five, and six year olds) who tend to throw themselves into things with rather joyful abandon, heedless of the mess or the results. This versus the seven-eight-nines, who often want you to repeat instructions and who are more concerned about making mistakes, and even more differently are the ten-elevens who either a) work painstakingly and with great attention or b) give up quickly if they think they "can't" do something and ask if they can do something else instead. I know a lot depends on a child's temperament and learning style too, but age is still a very important factor as we contemplate how to teach.
I think one of my favorite moments this week was seeing the very youngest camper -- a four year old with sparkling eyes -- gamely hold up her wooden disk. The kids were making Viking shields, and some of them did rather intricate designs. This little girl had covered the whole thing in layers of paint, front and back, and her hands were covered in layers of paint too! But oh the delight on her face as she grinned in triumph! (And yes, I took her to wash her hands, though I first helped her out of her smock, an oversized shirt which was so long it looked like a floor-length dress.)
An exhausting week in many ways, but a good one...connecting kids with creativity and reminding them that creativity is a loving gift of their Creator.
One week down. Five to go.