Monthly Archives: August 2015

Last Week as a Maker Corps Member at Camp Base Middleburg Heights

Our last camp was in Middleburg Heights.  While in need of another blog post about how the week has been and to keep up with everybody, it has taken me a little bit of time to reminisce, digest, and organize my entire experience as a Maker Corps member at Progressive Arts Alliance so I apologize for the delay.  Sadly, I have no pictures to show this week but that was because I had enjoyed every minute working with the campers in my final week; they were a blast.  Everyone was so well behaved, friendly, and ready to go on an adventure.  Even all the siblings that came got along and worked together so well, there were no issues at all.  A lot of the kids brought they own little components from home to add and personalize to their sculptures, some decorative and some functional which has always been equally advised consistently through the summer.  One of the groups brought in dinosaur themed objects and created their sculpture based on a Jurassic theme where marbles went through mysterious tunnels, slides, ramps and pathways.  There were so many ideas they had wanted to incorporate that their sculpture was extended out to being supported by chairs and down to the floor!  It was so cool.  While still being super creative, all of the groups were still very technical and organized in their planning.  It has been so nice to see some of them become so proud about what they had achieved and even in the small things they had built to incorporate, they were so concerned with the craftsmanship of their own pieces so it was a variety of multiple components built by different kids coming together that made it so magical for them, which is so rewarding to see in the end while they are presenting.  I have learned and grown so much from this experience and am so happy that I had this opportunity, thank you to everyone at Progressive Arts Alliance, the Cuyahoga County Libraries, as well as the campers that I got to work with and create so many amazing chain reaction kinetic sculptures.

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Campers Tinkering and Innovating at the Parma-Snow Branch!

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As we soon approach our last week as Maker Corp Members at Progressive Arts Alliance, this past week felt like it went by so fast.  The kids also seem to be getting a little more apathetic as their summer unfortunately comes to an end, but everyone ended up with amazing sculptures.  Most of the campers seem to have gotten along pretty well, except for the siblings.  We had a lot of siblings the past week which comes with some advantages and disadvantages, but the most important goal we had was to keep them working in separate groups since part of the camp experience is also to work with and meet new people.  The biggest issue that was brought up this past week was that the older siblings had a difficult time giving respect to their younger siblings.  As everyone had brought their own little detail and idea to the table, they all focused more on how they could change their sculptures or make it even better.  The older siblings would realize how much they had underestimated how much their younger siblings could accomplish.  There was always consistent competitive nature yet healthy momentum throughout the summer within each camp, which brings even better chain reaction kinetic sculptures.

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Part of their sketching process before building involves this aspect of remembering to consider alternatives just in case one thing does not work, that everyone has good feedback to give, and that we all learn from each other.  It’s always amazing to see and watch the campers grow and get excited to build more at home from this experience and come to us in the end saying thank you’s and ask us if we will have this program again next summer.

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Working in Groups

Since the beginning of this summer the kids in the Imagination and Innovation camps have been building their projects in groups. This is helpful really in getting kids to work with one another and cuts down on material usage and space. Throughout the summer though I have been really interested in how the kids breakdown and establish certain roles on their own within groups. Not entirely surprising is that a lot of the groups have chosen a leader that would help guide the group through the week. This is common but when it happens we like to keep an eye on the group just to make sure the leader doesn’t start determining too much at the expense of other more shy campers.

Other groups set certain roles for each member without ever explicitly discussing it. One of the kids might be the Scratch specialist while another would do the bulk of the cutting and drilling and one might be the lead at testing and adjusting the final piece. This system, as well as the one where everyone does a bit of everything seems to work the best but what’s most interesting to me is that when I talk to the kids about their roles they seem to have no idea that they were in a specific position.

When working your position is typically made abundantly clear and you have a good idea of your place in that particular system. However, kids manage to mimic a lot of those relationships without having, necessarily a boss, or a coordinator. I think that the way they break apart responsibility, although not always a success, is really interesting. It feels more fluid than most team oriented tasks that I see or do as an adult. I think it’s awesome that kids can assign and change roles quickly and that they can assess how to best create their project really without ever having a sit down meeting and discussing it. It’s just one thing among many that although subtle has surprised me that kids are really creative and intelligent despite age or experience.

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Doing Their Own Thing

Before coming to Progressive Arts Alliance my method as a teacher and instructor was very “hands on” and I really thought it was part of being an effective teacher to guide students precisely through the lesson. However, through this internship I have found that kids do their best work when left to their own devices for a majority of the time. The way that I look at it is that by the time people get to my age they have been impressed upon and told specific ways of how to do most things that the creative process is somewhat stunted. When I first approached Scratch or the Teeter Totter challenge I employed a pretty pragmatic mindset. I figured out the simplest way to do a certain task and thought of that as accomplishing or achieving my goal. This quickest, most efficient mindset is something that has been impressed on me and ingrained into my habits and is thus communicated to the students that I instruct.

However, by stepping back and allowing the kids to have the freedom to make choices and decisions I can limit how much I impress upon them. Kids don’t think in the most direct terms often and because they haven’t been told over and over again how to most efficiently accomplish a task, they are so much better at thinking outside of the box. I love giving a basic assignment or telling them in the broadest sense what they will be doing (building Rube Goldberg machines) and watching them interpret that in any way they wish to push it creatively. Even in the short teeter totter challenges kids are still coming up with completely new ways to construct a simple machine. I have yet to go to a camp where there isn’t a teeter totter that I haven’t seen before.

As an artist that is really one of the coolest and most gratifying things about working with kids. Approaching my final year of school I really am excited to see how these experiences have effected my own creative process and art making techniques.

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Camp Base Brooklyn!

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Our 9th camp for the summer was at the Brooklyn branch.  It has been a really good week; the kids are very ambitious and engaged in the program.  A lot of them even brought in their own supplies to incorporate into their chain reaction sculptures, such as K’NEX and Magnetix kits, which are also very cool.  We were a little worried in the beginning because sometimes the introductions, safety instructions, and demos can be a lot to listen to, and it seemed as if they were less interested in what was going on.  As soon as they got to get their hands on tools and materials, they blossomed into little tinkering engineers and carpenters like no ones business.  As time went by and they worked on their projects more, the more amazing they became.  The remaining kids who have been frequently attending the camp show they truly care and are passionate for the camp and their sculptures, it has been amazing watching what they come up with, this week has been filled with some of the fastest workers.  The first picture above is one of our campers who created a trampoline-maze-ramp for a marble that was inspired by his Magnetix kit that has a trampoline in one of the ramp structures using only wood, rubber bands and popsicle sticks!  And there are also additional pictures below of some of their in progress tinkering.

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