I can see little Max squinting as he approaches the check-in desk with his mom. By the scowl on his face, I can tell he’d rather be in bed, watching TV and reading comics in his PJs instead of at an art camp.
For five minutes, an eternity for Max, he and his mom wait until he’s registered and ready to go. He tells his mom goodbye, and as he steps into the courtyard, a volunteer points him to a long sidewalk where kids are coloring on a long sheet of paper.
Max strolls to a corner at the very end, and once there, he gets on his knees and starts drawing. I sit beside him, curious as to what he’ll draw. Other kids are drawing spaceships and flowers, but Max draws circles around an ant. He giggles because he’s confusing the ant.
The camp workers split the kids by ages—older and younger—then take them to their classrooms. Max is with the younger kids. In the classroom, Max must be cold because he shivers a little as he sits on his mat.
When the teacher walks in, she says, “Eyes on the prize.” She points at her own eyes, and most kids stop playing around and look at her. But not Max. I smile when I see that his attention is elsewhere, not on the teacher’s eyes but on the bright, flowery patterns of her pants.
“First we’ll learn about lines,” the teacher says before starting a video. Although the sound isn’t working great, the kids look at the screen intently. Next, the teacher has the kids make different kinds of lines in the air. I can see Max’s fingers moving all over the place. He even loses his balance, almost falling at one point.
Next, the kids learn about lines in mountains, in snakes, in towers. I hear “oohs” and “aahs” as the teacher talks about lines. I hear one girl tell Max that “lines are everywhere.” Wide-eyed, he nods, enthusiastic and amazed by his new discovery.
Now the teacher splits the kids into groups for art activities. She explains that they will rotate from station to station when they hear the music. “It’ll be like musical chairs but with art,” I hear her say.
I see Max starting at the playdough station. There, he has to shape playdough into the lines the teacher’s helpers have already drawn for the kids.
When the music sounds, Max scrambles to the next station. All around, chaos reigns as the campers run to their next stations. I take several steps closer and see that in Max’s new station the campers are drawing lines.
Max drags his pencil all over the piece of paper. Soon jagged and curvy lines start to populate the blank spaces. Engrossed by his painstaking work, the music takes Max by surprise.
He ends up at a station with colored strips of thin paper. At this station, the campers are supposed to glue these lines of an almost crunchy material to a piece of cardboard. Once his art has dried, he starts waving it like a flag.
The music plays one more time, and the teacher calls the campers back to their mats. “Eyes on the prize!” Max knows just what that means this time and looks right at the teacher. “It’s snack and story time!”
Snacks and Stories
As the kids munch on their snacks, the teacher reads them a story. In this story, Harold uses his crayon to draw the things around him. He draws a moon and a sidewalk and “a very small forest, with just one tree in it.” As she’s talking, she holds up a huge purple crayon. Max almost reaches out to touch it. He just loves that giant crayon.
Painting with Lines
The teacher finishes the story, and the campers finish with their snacks before moving on to the next activity. At the long table in the back of the room, each camper has a piece of paper divided into sections by many types of lines. To the left of each piece of of paper is a plastic plate with a squirt each of red, blue, green and yellow paint.
Each camper paints in a different way. Some, like the girl beside Max, are painting what looks like flower petals on the tablecloth. Others, like the boy in front of Max, are strictly following the teacher’s instructions and painting inside the lines. But Max wants to be like Harold, and he doesn’t care about the lines and divisions already there. He just paints wherever he feels like it.
By now, Max has splattered paint everywhere—on the table, all over his clothes, and even on his face. He proudly looks at his paint-stained arms. “I’m like a real artist now,” I hear him tell one of the workers.
Soon after, I see his mom picking him up. His wide eyes and animated hand gestures give away his excitement.
It’s Friday, the last day of the week-long camp. Each camper gets a canvas art bag that they decorate however they want. While the bags dry, the campers listen to real-life artists talk about their work. Dressed as a funny clown, a costume designer talks about clothes in plays. Soon it’s time to go to Rodeheaver Auditorium.
In the Rodeheaver lobby, all of the campers’ art is displayed. After taking a group photo, the campers show their parents their art. Max tells his mom and dad that he likes his playdough fish the best—that, and the chocolate chip cookies on the table. Each camper also received a green certificate for attending Kids Create!
As Max leaves with his parents, I hear him say, “Can I come back again next week? I want to make another fish!”