So, some of you might know this, but we recently had a summer art camp. Actually, that’s not entirely true, we actually had two summer art camps. Our initial plan was to have an art camp in our city and then one in a nearby village that is host to a friend of ours. Unfortunately, the camp in our city fell through so we called around. We were a group of people with a fully funded and planned camp, though we were completely without participants. We were able to find another volunteer that spoke with an orphanage in his city about it and found that they were a group of participants with no camp. A perfect match.
As I said, the first camp was at an orphanage. Actually, it is more than just an orphanage. It does house eight or so kids on site, but it also offers activities and a warm meal every day to dozens of children from the community whose families aren’t able to offer them such things. For one week this summer, they were treated to our camp after they ate their lunch.
The second camp was in the small but beautiful village that our friend Emily lives in. The population is around 1,000 (so long as everyone is home at the same time), though it’s likely closer to 3 or 4 thousand if you include cows, goats, chickens, and ducks. We did our camp with students from the local school.
These basic descriptions being said, though our plans were the same, the two camps could have hardly been any different. The first consisted of as many as 50 children aged 6 through 11 while the second was for students ranging from 13 through 17, and our busiest day was perhaps 20 participants.
Aside from the demographic differences, I honestly couldn’t tell you which one was more rewarding to ourselves or to the children. We advertised the camp as an opportunity for the kids to do activities, have fun, and either paint a mural or make a film. What we didn’t tell them was that they would be learning about positive thinking, active listening, giving and receiving effective criticism, and teamwork along the way. At least those were our intended topics to teach, though I’m sure the learning was not limited to those topics.
Most of our teaching at the first camp needed to be though games and activities. This was made much more difficult the second day when it suddenly began pouring rain and we had to entertain 50 kids in a small and hot room for 5 hours. This meant none of our games that involved running and burning out their energy were possible. Fortunately, we all survived.
There’s far too much to tell about from these camps than I could possibly put in a post so I’ll just give some highlights. One game I particularly enjoyed was called Creative Coloring. This game involved the kids being in groups of about seven or eight. Each member is given a marker. Each team only has one marker of each color, and they are told that they can only use their own color and are not allowed to trade. They are given one piece of paper and they must work together to make a complete drawing using every color their team has. This goes against what most of these students are used to in school, where often the most talented student does all the work for the whole team. Instead, the more talented students are instead forced to sit back and either allow their teammates to work on their parts independently or to teach the less artistic teammates how to draw more difficult things. It worked very well and all of the kids liked that game.
Another interesting result from a game came from a game called It Could Be Worse. In this game, we name a scenario, for example: “You woke up late”. It is clearly something negative and unfortunately there is a good deal of pessimism in Moldova. This game, however, improves positive thinking by taking it one step further. You could continue it by saying “It could be worse, you could wake up late and not have breakfast”. It can then be continued further by adding that you are also late for school, that you are late for a test at school, or even that you didn’t study for the test that you are late for. Usually at some point someone inserted some sort of broken limb to make matters even worse. It seems a bit counter-intuitive to improve positive thinking by creating negative situations, but for the rest of the camp, It Could Be Worse became a sort of religion. If anything went wrong there would be at least one person to spit out the phrase “well, it could be worse” and then move right into fixing the problem or finding an alternative.
I have placed the video from the first camp on Youtube so I’ll leave you all with that. The second camp video isn’t on Youtube yet, though I intend to put it up eventually.