Friday, July 21, 2017

Cultivate Creativity at Middle School Camp

Teens and tweens may work on visual art, music,
journaling or poetry at Artists in the Gardens camp.
Photo by Kavanah Anderson.
By Sheon Wilson

Camper Sonata squatted down to look into Duke Gardens’ Millstone Pond for signs of turtles, her braided hair falling over the collar of her cartoon bear raincoat. She concentrated intensely.

“Do you see it, Sonata?” Nature Adventures Camp counselor Hope Wilder asked, as a dozen other grade school students craned their necks to see. “His little head is rising over the water.”

Sonata, her eyes glistening, smiled and nodded excitedly.

Those 10 minutes spent sharpening their powers of observation enhanced the artwork the campers would create later that week, including nature journals, drawings and craft projects. Teens and tweens entering grades six through eight will get a similar opportunity to explore the relationship between art and science in Duke Gardens’ Artists in the Gardens day camp that runs from Aug. 7 to 11.

“It’s my philosophy to give them a choice and see what they make,” Wilder says. “The idea is that the same observation skills that apply to science apply to art. We provide the materials and the framework, but what the kids do with it is up to them.”

Picking their own materials and type of art is part of the fun. Campers might use mixed-media, sculpture, music, poetry or drawing for their art project. In addition to learning about the formal elements of art, campers will experience the way garden design affects what they observe during their garden explorations.

During Sonata's camp in June for children entering third through fifth grade, the children walked along a stream near the Iris Bridge in the Historic Gardens, clutching small nets and craning their necks to see whether tiny fish or tadpoles would swim by.

“Don’t fall in ‘accidentally on purpose,’ because the point is to keep the animals safe,” Wilder said, after passing out plastic containers that the children would use to hold what they caught. “If you catch these little creatures, please keep them for only 10 minutes, because there isn’t enough air for them to breathe longer than that.”

A camper named Anna stared into the water for a couple of minutes before declaring, “We can’t see to the bottom. There are no fishes here.”

“It takes time to find them,” Wilder said, knowing that the more the children embrace stillness, the more they will notice all the wonders of the world around them. “The fish like to hide in the bushes and grasses so you can’t get them. You have to be patient until they are ready to come out.”

Teen campers will also have ample chance to deeply explore Duke Gardens. Then as they delve into artwork in their choice of media, their observations about nature’s beauty, logic and mysteries will further inform their art.

“The goal is for teens to be immersed in this process that encourages their creativity,” says education program coordinator Kavanah Anderson. “Art is the basket that holds all the elements of the camp.”

REGISTER NOW: Artists in the Gardens camp will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. August 7 to 11. There is no after-care for this camp, but we will offer an afternoon Citizen Science program for middle-school students. For more information about Duke Gardens’ themed Nature Adventures Camp summer and spring break camp series, or to register for the teen camp, please see our camps web page.

Blogger Sheon Wilson is Duke Gardens’ publications coordinator.

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