August 2, 2015
Last week was my favorite week of Summer Camp so far. This is because the theme was Bauhaus. I am obsessively in love with the Bauhaus art movement; it’s influences can be seen everywhere today, from IKEA furniture to the abc tv logo, and even Apple computers. Bauhaus stripped art down to it’s basic principles and focused on formal elements such as color, pattern and shape. Look, I’m starting to ramble already, see how much I love Bauhaus?? The kids also seemed to really get into the projects, and the theory behind them.
The big (and unsurprising) take away from all of this is…
The more passionate you are about a theme, the more excited the kids are going to be about it.
You may look a bit crazed, and they might play it cool and pretend to not be buying into your frenzied enthusiasm, but they are (well most of them are, some of them just think you are crazy), and the proof is in their work.
One obstacle that we hit on, is that so many of the Bauhaus projects relied on being able to paint/cut/draw ‘clean’ shapes. Motor skills vary greatly with elementary school age kids, and some kids found the painting tasks a little too challenging, so we took a step back and learnt some painting and drawing techniques for a while. The nice thing about summer camp is you can go at your own pace.
I tend to concentrate on process more than outcomes in my camps, which means that sometimes projects can change direction and take on a life of their own. The printmaking project was one of those projects that had more juice in it than expected, so we kept developing it further. I think that the two artists that the kids seemed to like the most were Josef Albers and Freidensreich Hundertwasser. Why?? Here is my big lesson of the week:
Elementary students like to hear stories. They like to hear juicy little morsels of information about artists, that make them more human in their eyes (click on the links for cool kids’ books about the artists). They were delighted to hear that Hundertwasser, changed his name to mean ‘Free Kingdom Hundred Waters’ and recycled his own poop, and that Joseph Albers was a primary school teacher, and his father was a house painter. Tell them stories, put the art in context, laugh about it a bit, and make it more reachable and fun.
Next week is going to be all about Games. Art games, board games, shadow puppets, and old school yard games. I’ll let you know how it all goes!
July 26, 2015
Week 1 and 2 of my little art camp have flown by, and I’ve been meaning to blog about the experience, but to be honest, it has just been one task too much for me.
My days have started at 6.00am and involved getting myself ready, getting my kids ready, getting four sets of lunches and snacks packed for the day (while dealing with cries of “Eww! I don’t like that yoghurt” and “SHE likes blueberries and bananas, I ONLY like apples!!”), gulping down a cold breakfast, and then limping to my car with a five year old holding onto my leg wailing, because his sister is leaving with me.
My action packed day with the campers ends around 5.00pm, and then my attention shifts to my kids, their swim practice, dinner, hiding the fart gun, and bedtime.I have been a little tired.
Having said that, I think I am building up some resistance to my increased levels of activity, and should be back blogging regularly by next week.
I was thinking of writing about what the kids did over the last weeks, but then I thought I would switch things around a bit and tell you about…
…WHAT I LEARNT AT CAMP (important lessons, my friends)!! :
- Never, NEVER forget the Band Aids when you go outside. Don’t even think about it, just don’t.
- When playing Apples to Apples, be literal. Irony doesn’t work for 4th graders.
- Vintage Sesame Street animation did not impress this generation at all. They found it too simple, and complained about the poor screen resolution (philistines).
- The older kids will insist that they are too old for it, but the moment I start reading aloud to the campers, there is a pin drop silence, and intense concentration on their faces. They love being read to (awww).
- Printmaking, any type of printmaking makes kids super happy.
- Cleaning up after print-making has the opposite effect on them.
- The calmest moment of all was when I gave the kids a pack of cards and asked them to build a house of cards. I have never seen them so focused and determined for so long – definitely doing that again.
- A couple of spray bottles of water and a box of sidewalk chalk are great things to have during outdoor breaks.
- Kids love to teach, and they are good at it. I learnt to throw a football the correct way, pitch a baseball, hold a cricket bat better, play Capture the Flag and Wall ball. Next week they are going to teach me about Minecraft and paper airplanes.
- If you start a conversation with a 3rd/4th grader about Percy Jackson, you had better be ready to give up about an hour of your time, and don’t even think about glazing over – they’ll catch you at it.
- Vigilance is key during lunch times. Elementary school kids will eat their lunch and all their snacks at once, then cry because their stomach hurts, then spend the rest of the day saying “I’m staaarving, my mom/dad didn’t pack me enough food!”
- Bodily functions – that is what humor is all about for these kids. The fart gun keeps them laughing uncontrollably for long periods of time, and who am I to complain?
Now for the (very amateur) pictures:
More next week!
July 8, 2015
I tremble ever so slightly as I write this.
I don’t know why I get so nervous leading up to camps, I mean, I’m experienced, I’m prepared: I’ve written the curriculum, I have the materials and I know what I’m doing – what’s the big deal???
It’s just me.
To be honest, I get nervous about pretty much any new endeavor, even driving to a place I’ve never driven to before freaks me out a little! The weird thing is, I can’t survive without those freak out moments. I like change, even change that scares me, so I often find myself out of my comfort zone, swearing to myself silently, and promising that ‘I’ll never do this again’ – but I do, I always do!
My kids are like this as well, I think most kids are. In fact, I think one of the reasons that I get along with kids so well, is that certain aspects of my ten-year-old persona have stuck with me permanently. I find it very easy to empathize with kids about a lot of things.
Last week, we drove up to the beach for my birthday. We ate snacks very messily (my son in particular) and listened to many audio books on the way. One audio book that we love listening to is Roald Dahl’s The Twits. It is so very, very silly and disgustingly funny, and my stomach ached from laughing at it uncontrollably. Later on, my nine year old daughter and I kept retelling all the yuckiest bits of the story over and over again, guffawing to ourselves, while my husband listened to us with a fixed expression of polite patience on his face.
When we got to the beach, we played in the water and sand, I spotted a shark and had a ‘minor’ panic attack, my son built many sand castles, and I built a sand dinosaur that my daughter walked all over by mistake (how do you not notice a sand dinosaur?). On July the 4th, it literally rained on our parade, the fireworks and carnival were cancelled, everything was closed, so the kids spent the evening in our hotel room watching a movie and eating microwave popcorn. We lived through it, and many other tiny disappointments, and awesomely fun moments, and came back happy and exhausted.
The vacation made me remember another, very important, fact about kids: they are much more forgiving than adults. Children are still learning the ropes, when it comes to life, and are the best people to be around when you make a mistake, or an idiot of yourself. Fall off your bike, snort juice out of your nose while laughing, forget to pack tennis balls with your racket, or sit on paint (as I did in the Great Noctiluna Camp of ’13) and it’s okay, as long as you can take a bit of mild teasing.
Every time I remember this fact, I feel much less nervous about the next six weeks, because I know I’m going to be with my most favorite people, and it’s going to be awesome!!
June 27, 2015
It has been waaaay too long since I last blogged, and here’s why:
1: I really haven’t felt like I have much to write about, and I just don’t do that whole ‘writing for the sake of writing’ stuff. It would bore you to death.
2: School is out, my delicious munchkins are home, and when I hang out with the kids, I do it wholeheartedly.
3: Summer camp starts in just sixteen days (aaargh!), and every spare second I have is taken up with ordering materials, collating materials, emailing interns, tweaking lesson plans, visiting the school, and all the other little things that have to be done before the fun begins.
To be honest, I have found the past week refreshing. It has been nice hanging out with the kids and not worrying about schedules, homework, or school events. This is my time to recharge before the storm, where my brain hits refresh, and gets ready to handle the mighty Summer camp experience.
Summer camp is really a beautiful thing for me. I love teaching, and kids, and art, and being a goof ball, and silly jokes, and making a mess, and freeze tag, and frisbee contests, and, well you get the idea, I’m a big kid. This year I’m even more ridiculously excited than usual because I reeeally like my curriculum. In fact, I am patting myself on the back about my curriculum, and I’m really bad at holding excitement in, so here are some things the kids are going to explore this summer:
Street art, Keith Haring, Sesame Street animations, Basquiat, Warhol, screen printing, the Day of the Dead, Poetry, Banksy, typography, Alexander Calder, mobiles and Stabiles, drawing with wires, sculpture with found objects, Galimotos, Miro, Mondrian, architecture, Bauhaus, graphic design, modernism, painting, Joseph Albers, optical illusions, Hundertwasser, board games, Nogaravin puppets, Enid Blyton, gestural painting, cardboard trees, creation myths, Native American legends, Pandora’s box, mosaic, collage, weaving, fractured fairy tales, Arthur Rackham, Kara Walker, illustration, dreams, fantasy art, Chagall, the principles of design, printmaking… and more.
Do you see why I’m excited? Do you? Stay tuned, I’m going to post pictures every week, but first, Independence day, popsicles and the beach beckon. Happy July 4th to everyone!
June 12, 2015
In the process of planning out the Noctiluna Art camps for this summer, I have been discovering a lot of cool resources for kids (and, well, anyone who is into art). These are mostly cool books (I love my books, I love them so much it’s not right), with a few other things thrown in. I want to share these finds with you (whoever you are), because I’m feeling extra excited about using them this Summer, and I want to spread all the love and excitement around.
1.Harvesting Dreams; Hundertwasser for Kids – Barbara Stieff
This book teaches about the fascinating artist, Freidensreich Hundertwasser, (try saying that fast three times in a row) in a really kid friendly way. It is full of questions and quotes for them to mull over, and has great ideas for games, activities, and art that they can make.
2. Draw Me A House – Thibaud Herem
A lovely, lovely book. Full of graphic, visual examples of, well, everything to do with different kinds of architecture. I have used pages of this book for kids to draw on, to get their ideas flowing during my architecture camp.
3. I Wish I didn’t have to Sleep – Keith Haring
This book has so many great starting points for discussions about Haring’s work, it is filled with comments and observations that children have made about Haring’s work, some are hilarious. I’m sure that it will help to loosen up tongues during discussions and critiques.
4. Go, A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design – Chip Kidd
Some of this book is a little bit complicated for my 6-10 year olds to navigate, but it’s a must for anyone attempting to teach anything about graphic design/typography to kids. Also it is written by someone called Chip Kidd- enough said.
5. Children’s Book of Mythical Beasts and Magical Monsters – Dorling Kindersley
My nine year old loves this book. I plan on reading a lot of myths to my campers, and exploring many ancient and classical cultures. This book has it all – monsters, gods, demons, heroes, magic. Once you pick it up you can’t put it down again for a very long time.
6. Meet The Artist, Alexander Calder – Patricia Geis
A spectacular book that makes you sigh at each page turn. Very interactive, lots of things to lift, pull, and play with. Lots of information.
7. Kid Made Modern (book and products) – Todd Oldham
There is a cool Mid century vibe to this book. The projects are all based on different artists/designers that I love, and have beautiful outcomes. In fact, I have fallen in love with the Kid Made Modern aisle at my local Target; so many drool-worthy art materials, kits and how-to pamphlets for kids.Go check it out.
8. The Art of Eric Carle – Philomel Books
I got this at a used book fair, and it is perfect for older elementary school kids to read to themselves. Eric Carle writes about his life and inspirations in a simple, clear way, and the color prints in the book are big, bright and beautiful. Perfect for a classroom.
9. This is…. Series – M.Sasek
I included this series because it is just so, so beautiful. The illustrations are gorgeous, and any book that teaches my kids about other parts of the world, and gets them excited about traveling is a good book. I have the This is London, and the This is Paris, and they are both superb.
10. Felt Mosaic by eeBoo
Okay, this isn’t a book, it’s a game. It is a cheaper, and simpler version of the awesome Color Forms game, therefore, it is also a great way to teach kids about Bauhaus design. Also, it is a wonderful tool for developing hand-eye coordination and spatial intelligence. A little difficult for my five year old to do alone, but I think he will get into it next year. The nine year old loves it.
11. Crayola ‘my color is…’ set
Also discovered at Target. These little mixed media packs of drawing materials sorted by color are my daughter’s favorite thing right now. I’m thinking of making my own mixed media packs sorted by color for the kids to use this Summer. A great way to explore texture and line.
That’s it. Hope you found that list useful/entertaining/fun/a better alternative to a nap. The pictures below are in a very weird order. My computer is in a bad mood today, but at least I got this post out. Enjoy!
June 3, 2015
I have been running camps for four years. I’m no veteran, and four years may not seem a very long time, however, in those four years I have learnt a lot, and my camps have grown a lot.
This list of tips addresses issues big and small, and I hope it helps any individuals out there thinking of running a Summer camp. I can think of a lot more advice, but I thought I’d keep things short and sweet, and 10 seemed like a nice round number. If you want more tips, you’re just going to have to come over and have a cup of tea with me.
- Start planning early.
Trust me on this. If your camp is scheduled for July, you need to start sending out emails and printing up flyers in January. A lot of the big camps start enrollment in March for the Summer (I know, it’s a crazy world out there), so you need to get the word out in advance. Also, the sooner you start planning out lessons the better.
- Send out a survey!
Otherwise, you are basically stabbing in the dark when you plan out dates, times, and content for your camp. For heaven’s sake keep the survey short and relevant, no parent wants to spend ages answering essay questions on ‘your child’s strengths and weaknesses’.
- Stick to your strengths.
Obvious really. If you are an art teacher, teach a Visual Arts camp, not a Math camp (unless you are an ex-Mathlete). I don’t teach kids younger than six years old, because I know that I am not an early childhood educator.
In the same vein, don’t teach an age group, unless you genuinely like being around them, just don’t. Kids are smart, they can tell what you are thinking, and they will make your life hell if they sniff out that you are faking it.
- Quality not quantity
If you are a one person business, don’t get greedy. Keep your camps small, or hire some help, otherwise chaos will ensue.
- Shout your philosophy to the world
What is it you are passionate about? What makes your camp unique? Be honest and use Social Media to spread the word, and hopefully, like minded people will find you. Also, if you are clear about your philosophies from the beginning, you avoid misunderstandings with non-like minded people down the line.
- Ask every question possible
I am not very business savvy, I’m learning things the hard way. This is something really important that I have learned. When you rent a space, make sure you know everything there is to know about it, no question is too stupid. Where are the restrooms? When will I get my keys? Where do I park? Can we eat in this room? Is it okay to make a lot of noise? Can we run up this hallway?Can we use that playground? Do you have WiFi? Who else will be here? Who are you? Where does that door lead? What is that stain? Ask all the questions, take their number, and then ask more.
- Camp is not school
This is very important. Kids need to decompress too, so be flexible. Let them have long outdoor breaks, let them finish a project the next day if they are looking tired, or change the direction a project is going. Play things by ear, goof around a little, keep things a little less structured than school, and everybody is happy.
- Wear Comfortable Shoes
If you are teaching elementary school kids, trust me, you WILL end up playing Tag, or Soccer, or Ghosts in the Graveyard. Roll with it, enjoy the opportunity. Younger kids are very forgiving about lack of sport skills, and even the least athletic teacher can come out of this situation feeling good.
- Have Boundaries
Despite all of the above exhortations to get in on the fun and games, you will also need your personal space from time to time. Make this clear when an eight year old asks you to play Boggle while you are eagerly opening up your lunch box. Also, do NOT give them your lunch, no matter how hungry they say they are.
- Word of Mouth matters
If you run your camp well, and teach good lessons, and care about your kids, and believe in your own philosophy, and everybody has a great experience, well that’s really all the marketing you need. Good luck.
June 1, 2015
I take a deep long breath as I write this. May was one hell of a month – craft festivals, birthdays, school events all clubbed together and squeezing me so tight that I could barely breathe, let alone blog about them. I’d like to move on, but first let me quickly tell you about ViVa Vienna…
On Memorial Day weekend, I sold my wares at ViVa Vienna, which is my absolute favorite fair of the year; not because I sell so well at it, but because it is such a happy event. It’s in my ‘hood’, which makes a huge difference – shorter commute, known territory, happier kids etc. I’ve blogged a lot about Vienna in the past, such as in this post, and this post, and I don’t want to keep repeating myself, but it can be a pretty cool place.
At ViVa Vienna, I’m always reminded of how many people actually care about me. People constantly drop by to see how I’m doing; friends help me set up and break down my booth, and sometimes bring me drinks and baked goods to keep me alert and upright. These small acts of kindness make all the work of selling at a fair seem so much easier. I also love all the familiar faces that pass by. Kids that go to school with my kids gape at me, and then smile as they walk by, kids who go to my camps stop by to make sure I’m not slacking, the barber from down the street scowls at me. I love ViVA Vienna.
Straight after ViVa Vienna, I got to work on planning my five year old’s birthday party. That happened on Saturday, Sunday was recovery day. Time to move on.
I have been totally ignoring my blogger duties, and hobbling through a lovely week of birthday celebrations and school events (standing at fairs can make your feet hurt for a really long time!). But enough is enough, the birthdays are over, my summer camp is looming large on the horizon, and I need to start writing again on a regular basis, so that I don’t totally lose it like a melted Popsicle.
This week I shall be ordering materials for my camps, and revising my lesson plans again, and writing another post, and getting ridiculously excited about all of the above in a way that only I could.
Of course there will still be end of school performances to attend, thank you cards to write, dentist appointments to keep, gym classes to attend, and bedtimes to enforce, but as my favorite literary cat, who got me through last week says “it’s all good”. ;)
May 18, 2015
I spend so much time making things for Noctiluna, things to sell, things for other people’s kids and homes, and I love what I do. However, I have an admission to make; I rarely craft things for my own kids, I never seem to have the time. We do a lot of crafty projects, but I don’t really make them things. This reminds me of the old saying “the carpenter’s children have no shoes”. My kids often wear Noctiluna shirts, but more often than not, they are the shirts that I can’t sell, the ones with the little smudges on the collars, or the wonky labels. Once, I specifically designed and printed a unicorn shirt for my daughter, and I did print a rocket on my son’s school bag last year, but more often than not, I just buy them things made by other people. They both have their birthdays in May, and this year I have been making things for them. Easy, foolproof things, nothing complex, because, well, I don’t have much time, and I can be a bit of a scatterbrain.
My nine year old daughter is obsessed with two things: the new Cinderella film, and Paris. She is learning French at school, and is fascinated by French culture.She likes nothing better than sitting outside a cafe with a croissant, and practicing her French on very confused friends (poser). Well, the stars just happened to align in her favor this year, and during my summer camp research sessions, I kept bumping into things that she would love.
I have blogged about the website madebyjoel.com before, it is an amazing resource for parents and educators alike. I found a great printable “mini Paris kit” on the site. Easy as pie, print, cut, and fold, find a tin of Altoids, empty the contents (don’t eat them all at once), jazz the tin up a bit, et voila! There are loads of other free printables on the site as well – I printed out some cityscapes for my son and his friends to color in and play with at his birthday party as well – they are a great party give away.
My daughter is still into dolls, and she fell in love with Maileg’s knitted mice in match boxes – they look so vintage and cute. I cannot knit to save my life, but I just happened to be researching paper dolls for a camp. So I drew a family of mice on some paper, stuck the drawings onto card (empty cereal boxes work well), and cut them out with little flaps to stand on. I used fabric scraps to sew a little mattress to fit into a matchbox (unsure what to do with all the matches, though), and put the whole family into one box. Matchboxes aren’t very pretty any more, so I decorated the box as well. I got so into this that I foolishly made a family of animals for my four year old son as well, knowing full well that they will be destroyed in a matter of minutes.
Finally, have a look at this EASY knotting method for making tutus that a friend found for me on Pinterest. I have been using it to make tutus to sell with baby onesies, and decided to make my daughter a Cinderella tutu. You can buy beautiful long Cinderella tutus at Kohls, but again, they are so, so, pricey. Just use longer strips of tulle (the glittery tulle really put a smile on my daughter’s face), and pop a few fabric butterflies into the skirt.
Also, I found the BEST skin markers for drawing tattoos on the kids. The colors are so bright and glittery that It doesn’t matter that they get rubbed off in minutes. I want to use them again and again, and the kids are very pleased.
Now if I could only come up with a project that involves using up large quantities of Altoids and matches. Hmmmm…..
May 12, 2015
I never managed to blog last week; May is always the busiest month of the year for me. I had my babies in May and, weirdly enough, so did many of my friends, so there are birthdays to plan and attend, and many, many presents to buy and give. May is also a month of festivals – this year I am selling at the MoCo Strawberry Fest, and ViVA Vienna.
Aah May, bringer of annual pediatric check ups, school orientations, end of year exams, and end of school mayhem (Sorry, I pun like an idiot when tired), and the Noctiluna Summer Camps loom ever nearer.
Long story short, May is a busy month.
I was going to blog about the stress, but you don’t need to hear any more about that.
Instead, I’ll tell you about something lovely:
A friend of mine is opening a new Montessori preschool in Vienna. This is wonderful, because my friend is wonderful. She is a wonderful educator, who has helped my 4 year old son immensely, and there aren’t nearly enough good full-day preschools in Vienna (I should know!).
I visited the site last week, and I’m beyond excited. The building is full of big, bright windows, and has great outdoor work/play areas. I’m also excited because in all probability I will be running the Noctiluna camps from this awesome place next year.
As if all that was not exciting enough, my friend has asked me to paint a mural at the entrance of her school. Of course, I squealed in delight, and made the builders knock things over.
It’s a little known fact, but I have actually painted a public mural before. It was a long time ago, when I was a twenty-something, on Cable Street in East London (no, no, not the famous one, the other one). I’m not sure if it is still there, it’s possibly covered in graffiti, or a fresh coat of paint, which is fine. I painted it to publicize a new youth IT training center opening nearby. I have been wanting to paint another one for a while now.
To celebrate, I tried out my skills on a small wall in my family room, and now I just want to paint on everything!! My kids are delighted, the house may look very different by the Summer. I’ll keep you posted. :)
April 30, 2015
I’m a pretty optimistic person, but like anyone else I have my low, mean, grouchy days, today is one of those days.
I have forced myself to write this post today, because writing a blog post often puts things in perspective for me, and I can stop being so self absorbed, move on, and smile again.
Grumpy Me says “Forget about that ******* blog! Forget about everything, and just eat chocolate, wear sweatpants and sulk all day”. Luckily, I remember the last time I took advice from Grumpy Me – didn’t turn out too well.
Anyway, here is a round up of what I have been doing so far this week. For your convenience, I have color coded the good and bad stuff. Pink for good, green for bad, it’s that simple.
Writer’s block: I had to move all the furniture around in my living room, in order to get comfortable while writing. Everything faces the windows now, and my family is very confused. I need to work somewhere else.
It worked! I managed to finish writing all the curriculum for my Summer camp, and it is going to be awesome.
I had a major panic session because my venue fell through for the Summer camp.
I finally found another, slightly better venue nearby. So there!
Booking the new venue requires a long stint in insurance/tax ID/online-form-filling Hell.
All that time waiting for things to process online helped me to discover http://www.madebyjoel.com, a heavenly website full of ideas and resources for parents and teachers.
Still in in insurance/tax ID/online-form-filling Hell.
It will be over soon
Both my kids fell sick, and took days off school. Both need to be pinned down daily to take eye drops/nose drops/cough syrup every few hours. Both sleep less than four hours a night.
The sick days gave me some time to read Printmaking + Mixed Media by Dorit Elisha, which has helped me hugely with a summer camp project. I now realize how little I actually know about printmaking. Very inspiring.
As usual, my Summer childcare arrangements for my youngest child fell through at the eleventh hour.
Surprisingly, I managed to find a great alternative childcare solution for him….
…despite this, I still can’t stop worrying if he will be okay.
Both my kids’ birthdays are around the corner. The planning has started.
Both my kids’ birthdays are around the corner. The planning has started.
I have a new YouTube channel for Noctiluna
I have lots of video footage waiting to be edited for my new YouTube Channel.
The T-shirts and onesies are sewn and done, and they are beeyootiful, even if I say so myself.
I have no idea where I am going to sell them. I haven’t had time to contact any shops.
Another sick day advantage – I finally went through the mess of fabrics in my work room, and organized them into neatly cut swatches to use for my upcoming projects.
I threw a major tantrum this morning, because “my plate is too full!” and “I don’t know where I’m going with this!!”
Tantrum over; time to regroup.
I received encouragement from all the way across the Atlantic, and realized just how wonderful my friends and family are. Thank you. xx
Well, I feel much better after that, how about you?
See? Even if nobody ever reads this, it worked. Time for a cup of tea.