2000-08-05 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio


Rockaway Artists Alliance
By Susan Hartenstein

Camp KidsmART teacher Karen McCallion and children showing off Sammy the Shark and their hats, all of which the children made. 
Camp KidsmART teacher Karen McCallion and children showing off Sammy the Shark and their hats, all of which the children made.

Beginning this week the column features two of the letters RAA has received regarding our Camp kidsmART, the four-week recreation and education program held in July in sTudio-6, Fort Tilden. Kate Judge was program coordinator.

Dear RAA,

How do we begin to thank you for such a fun filled month. Everyday was filled with so many activities and so much fun.

I loved listening to my children argue over what they enjoyed best each day. The gardening, sports activities, art projects, etc…were all fantastic, but the best part was how the camp workers loved the kids. They were all so full of energy and love for these children, that I know my kids will truly miss their new friends…

You have all done a great job.

Love,

Henry, Matthew, Rebecca Moers

and two very happy parents

You’re the Best!

Dear Kate,

I’d like to take this time to thank you and all those involved in the wonderful summer arts program at Fort Tilden. My children Ryan, Heidi and Justin truly enjoyed every minute and are already looking forward to next year. They came home every day filled with stories, beautiful art projects, tee shirts and all sorts of creative ideas. If there’s anything we can do to help in the future, please let us know.

My son Ryan loved the volunteer work, he was involved with the children and other counselors and is really sorry to see it all come to an end. If you need help during the year, please call…Thank you and enjoy the rest of the summer!

Sincerely,

Muriel Zwick

********

Camp kidsmART, which drew children from Far Rockaway to Breezy Point, is the latest step in fulfilling RAA’s goal to provide quality year-round programming for the children of Rockaway. Once again, RAA has answered a need of the community – a need particularly felt this year. Public School 114 has always run a summer program, but due to the summer school mandates of the Board of Education, the school was unable to offer the summer camp this year. Therefore, parents were all the more grateful for the option of Camp kidsmART.

While the foundation of this program was arts based, the children participated in and were exposed to multiple disciplines -- a dazzling variety of activities and stimuli, opening mind, body and spirit to wondrous new worlds and possibilities. Planting and tending the garden taught them botany and an appreciation of the natural world. After a blueberry bush was planted by the children, they were given blueberries to taste – some had never eaten them before. Each day began with yoga and movement. All sorts of sports and imaginative art and crafts projects, as well as nature walks, filled other parts of the day. Melody bells and table games were available. Filling every possible space in sTudio-6 were things to stimulate a child’s creativity and natural instinct to explore. A reading corner provided books filled with art, fables, dinosaurs, atlases and more, in addition to the books written by the children. Covering the walls was the art of famous artists and of the children, treated with equal dignity. Every child was made to feel special. Quizzes and contests were a fun way to learn about art and art history. Painting some discarded chairs in wondrous patterns provided the challenge of turning an everyday object into a thing of beauty. If a child completed one project, he or she could easily move to another part of the room where another possibility awaited. But nowhere was there chaos – only full-tilt energy and enthusiasm harnessed into creativity and fun. And the quieter, more pensive children were just as at home here. Indeed, one of the parents remarked that she had hesitated to send her youngsters to camp, but this was like bringing them to someone’ s home.

Seventy children participated in this camp, held indoors and outdoors in the perfect setting of an urban park. That number limitation was due to the size of the building. "Our vision," says RAA arts education director Chris Jorge, "is to renovate the larger building T-7 so we can accommodate larger numbers." This program was funded primarily through the RAA Education Fund and through registration fees.

Camp kidsmART provided jobs for local teaching artists and teens and opportunities for high school students to fulfill required community service obligations, in a most wonderful way. The love among children, teen assistants and teachers at Camp kidsmART was palpable. Kate Judge, this program’s coordinator, sees the camp’s garden as a metaphor for the camp. "The program," she says, "is like one big seed and we will watch those children grow into a positive force in the neighborhood for a sense of community spirit and pride."

 


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