Strong Sense of Self

When we met in January to develop our summer art camp curriculum, there were three major considerations:
•  it would be arts-based
•  social justice would be the underlying theme
•  what we chose to do had to be relevant to children

Over the next several months, we pulled together resources, asked for suggestions from local artist/activists, and continued to explore ways we could make social justice meaningful to our students in a developmentally appropriate way.  With students ranging from one to twelve, this has been no easy task.  For a description of what we envisioned initially, go to this link:

As this first week has unfolded, thankfully without a flood (, what seems to be emerging from our weekly theme of “same and different,” is plenty of art aimed at establishing a strong sense of self.  For the youngest students, as they adjust to being at school for the first time, it looks like blue paint applied to recycled plastic bubble wrap (and their hair in some cases).  Their work is getting to know new friends, teachers, and classrooms.  Ongoing sensory experiences will help them see how they, as individual selves, fit into the greater world.

For preschoolers their art this week has focused on self-portraits, particularly applying their own touches to photographs of themselves in the style of artist Andy Warhol.  Additionally, as they engage in games and activities, as well as literature that emphasize the concepts of same and different, their awareness of self and others will grow.

Our elementary students are also creating self-portraits and portraits of each other.  Life-size body tracings will have descriptive words added to them, then students will compare and contrast their words with those of classmates.  The 3rd-6th graders are learning techniques for drawing eyes, noses, and faces.  A study of the color wheel hones their skills with color theory and combinations, all of which will inform their art in the weeks to come.

More than anything, this week is one of settling in.  It’s a good time to remember that all of us need to feel safe and secure in our environment before we can do our best work.  This goes for summer art camp, and for life.