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July 28, 2023

Camp’s Out!, Graciela Batista, 2024, BFA Illustration

by gracielalalalala
First day of camp!

I know I promised a post after the first week but here I am, a week late, hat in hand, and asking you to hear me out. A week of ice-breakers, introductions, guided practices, main writing lessons and high energy socializing really knocks it out of you. The weekend between the two weeks of camp consisted of a lot of sleeping and re-energizing in nature, meaning my update now will be a full camp overview! Phew it’s over!

We started strong Monday, June 10th. I was proud to Co-Lead the class with my manager, Pedro Estrada, swapping over sections of the lesson plan as we planned every morning an hour before the kids started knocking at our door. The first day, I felt happy to take a page from my past experience with CityArts, by asking the students to help build the community agreements as an introduction to the space. Loudly and enthusiastically I asked them if they knew what the number #1 rule at 826LA was. “Respect!” beamed through the room. I was actually quite surprised until I realized it was because there was a poster behind me revealing the answering. I asked them what makes them feel respected; listening to each other and keeping hands you themselves were popular suggestions. With help from the volunteers I told them to wrote their answers down on a sticky note and come up to the board to stick it on. Quietly they began, taking their pencils, peeling sticky notes from the stack and telling the volunteers at their tables they didn’t know what to write. Conversations unfolded between students admitting what respect looks like for them and volunteers adamantly listening while further prompting them to consider how other’s actions make them feel. Moments like these, hushed conversations led by a prompt projected onto the screen asking students to dig within and find a feeling were incredible. I would find myself asking if I did that sort of self reflecting and self questioning at their age, and what a sense of individuality it could grow to start doing so, so early.

Student placing post-stick on board

It occurred also on day 4, I think, all the days are a big jumble in my head. The lesson plan was album cover creation, a day that truly homogenously mixed the musical, visual and literary arts. The students were tasked taking inspiration from a previous lesson plan that questioned moments in their life they felt a strong emotion, choosing a song that could represent it, and explaining it in a paragraph. For the current day’s lesson we asked them to gather their songs and compile them into an album. They tackled questions like what was the overarching feeling their songs or experiences exuded? Was there a narrative present throughout the songs? And how could these sentiments best be represented in the cover art or the back matter describing the “album” as a whole? If the presence of glitter markers wasn’t exciting enough, they also had the opportunity of having their picture taken with a Polaroid to paste onto the cover in order to further personalize the final product. Students were so proud of their creation, we hit our record in most participants during share outs (a daily part of the lesson plan where students can share anything they made during that day). They shared albums inspired by their experiences with friendship, pets, memorable vacations and special days at school. Also to my surprise, most of them were begging to keep working on it the next day!

Summer camp was a blast, the growing comfort the students felt sharing about themselves with me by the last few days was nothing short of incredibly rewarding. My only gripe was that it wasn’t longer, as a two week program is a challenge to any educator getting to know their students. Now, I only have a week left of tying loose ends! Will report back soon 🙂

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