For as long as I can remember, the best part of summer (other than not being in school) was being able to go to summer camp. Marine biology camp, sleep away camp, church camp, soccer camp, you name it. Each camp had something new to offer, and each year had more built-up anticipation and excitement than the year previous.
The art aspect of camp was always the most interesting to me, but for the most part, it was just a glorified craft time. I remember coloring sheets, stained-glass ornaments, and the ever-so-popular friendship bracelets. But of course, that was from a camper’s perspective. Now I wish I knew what the counselors wanted each kid to get out the time spent in art. And even then, did the counselors care about “art,” or was it simply camp crafts?
This is where this “Social Justice art camp” was different from all the rest. I’m now on the other side. I’m leading the “art elective” (even though there was no other option), and definitely not from the kitschy craft point of view. In one of my reflections of camp, I made this relief print that represents how I felt leading and assisting in art lessons. It really was a journey. An exploration of ideas, materials, and techniques, figuring out how media and composition correlated, and all the while sharing social justice themes we were passionate about. Sometimes I was leading the group, sharing my ideas, expertise, and opinions, and other times (most of the time), I was following my fellow educators and even students learning for myself where my passions lie and how to voice my concerns for social justice. And like I said, it was a journey. There wasn’t a final destination, or a real end goal (other than making sure all the kids made it back to their parents alive). It was about the process of learning and growth.
From here on, summer camp has a new meaning. Being a future educator has forever changed the way I view camp and what can happen there. It’s still about having fun and making friends, but really it’s about gaining new perspectives and being able to view the people, interactions, and environment around us in a different (and maybe more understanding and empathetic) light.