Engaging Kids’ Curiosity at Summer Art-Science Camp
By Richard DuPertuis
Learn, Explore & Create
Story and Photos by Richard Dupertuis
THE YOUNG BOY in the lavender poncho is about to create an artistic masterpiece. The rain gear is for his clothes because his brush technique, called splatter, tends to send paint flying. His teacher holds a stick over and parallel to a canvas lying on the table. The boy taps the stick with his loaded brush, and splatter happens, flecking a pre-painted horsie head with accents of green.
Teacher Don Linn nods at his student’s progress. “When you get rich and famous,” he says, “I want some money from you. OK?”
The boy considers this offer for a moment, still tapping his brush, then replies, “I’ll give you some of my paintings.”
This scene takes place on the stage in the lower level of the Redding United Methodist Church, but it’s no act. It’s an art class, part of the church’s annual art-science camp. For the past two weeks, Linn and seven other volunteer instructors have introduced school children from second through eighth grade to artistic technique and natural science.
Earth to Sea: Summer Art-Science Camp is the brainchild of Peggy Rebol, director of ministry at the
church. The purpose of this camp is to engage kids in meaningful, hands-on activities across the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. Rebol designed the activities to develop creative thinking skills, and to pique curiosity about the world and a sense of wonder about the environment.
“This is a way to offer something educational and fun during the summer,” she says. “And meaningful, because to face the challenges of the world in front of us, we really need to have an understanding of our place in the ecosystem. Basically, we need to understand science.”
Not surprisingly, Rebol, a credentialed teacher, offers a science course herself during the camp, filling a classroom with a dozen kids. At the same time, other teachers conduct art and science instruction in other parts of the church, classes which the children have chosen from a list. On the artistic side, you can select from painting, collage and papier mâché.
For science, you can go outside and dig up bugs from the dirt. Or you can choose Rebol’s class, where you can build a watershed ecosystem or lay out an electrical circuit, even connect it to a machine.
Three sixth-grade girls work on the front table, each puzzling over her own project, a circuit board comprised of construction paper, copper tape, batteries, and an LED or two. Though each works on a board of her own, the teacher has grouped them as a team to support each other. When one asks, “How do I make a switch?” Rebol replies, “Ask your compadres.”
Eventually, one figures it out and tells the others, and soon the table is alight with three working circuits. Asked what it is, exactly, they just built, the three girls squeal in unison, “Squizzards!” followed by much giggling.
At a table further back in the room, a young man studies his science project, a stack of three two-liter plastic soda bottles – cut, inverted and taped together to form what looks like a three-tiered aquarium. Each represents a layer in an ecosystem, according to Rebol.
“The top layer is terrestrial. The middle is compost, and the third layer is aquatic,” she explains. “I took the samples out of our creek. There are all sorts of creatures in there for the kids to find, like worms, pill bugs and fungi that is natural in the soil. That means it’s healthy.”
Meanwhile, the children in the outdoor science class who hauled in bugs are examining their catches under a microscope. As in Rebol’s class, they will write a report on what they did and what they found. Yes, this is school, with classes taught by credentialed teachers.
Rebol says she loved nature from the beginning. “I’ve always wanted to go outside. That’s where I most feel like home,” she says. “I didn’t play with dolls. I carried frogs around.”
For these leanings she credits her father, who also loved the outdoors. “When I was a very young age, we’d go backpacking in the Sierras,” she recalls. “We’d stay there for a couple of weeks, fishing and hiking.” She graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles, majoring in biology.
June will arrive again pretty soon, and the Redding United Methodist Church will once again hold the Earth to Sea: Summer Art-Science Camp. This year’s camp will see a few changes. Student age range will cut back to sixth grade and extend to preschoolers, ages 4-5. The camp will run weekdays from June 17-28, 8 am-12:30 pm, and will include lunch.
The evening after the last day’s sessions, the church will host an open house, where students will share their two-week adventure in art and
science with friends and family. •
For more information. call (530) 243-2403