Friday, June 13, 2014

Year 4: Week 38 – Music Camp

Last year, I put in a proposal to do a music summer camp at my school. It didn’t run but I did find another camp at a different school, which I wrote about in this post. Well this year, the camp actually happened.

The camp I did last summer was four days a week. I would see two different groups of students for an hour each for that week. The next week I would get a different group of kids. This camp was different. I had the kids for three hours for five days.

I was really excited that this camp was going to happen, but leading up to the camp I wasn’t sure it was such a great idea. At the exactly same time I should have been planning for this camp, I was doing grades. My grades were actually due the Thursday of my camp week.

This probably would not have felt as insane if I had a clearer idea of what this camp was going to be like. I knew what kind of activities I wanted to do. The issue was that I wasn’t sure how I was going to pace a three-hour chunk of time.

After discussing this with my wife, who is one of my most important collaborators when it comes to formulating ideas related to teaching, I figured out a way to approach my time with these kids.

My wife, who went to camp and was a counselor at a camp, helped me understand the tricky and unique feeling that is a camp program. Yes, there needs to be structure, especially a varied schedule, however it can’t feel like school. Kids need to have fun and they should have a level of freedom to explore things that interest them.

In order to provide these kinds of experiences, the kids need to take a certain level of instruction and follow directions. This requires that kids do what is not fun at times and simply sit and listen. However if there is too much of that, then it doesn’t have that feeling of camp.

This past week was really tricky, but it worked. During transitions I told myself to be okay if they weren’t moving as a whole group. I gave students more freedom of choice then I would in the classroom, but the kids were fine because they were given the opportunity to do what they wanted to do.

While this was a music camp, I gave them time for a mini-recess as well as a snack time. During these chunks of time, kids were able to be off task and socialize. I saw friendships form, observed kids get sick of each other and watched them gel as a group.  We had a performance at the end and I was thrilled to seem nice crowd full of parents come to watch their kids perform.

Yes, it was one more thing to plan for in the busiest time of the school year and I had to dig deep to keep myself going, but it was worth it.  A week of making music with kids who all really love music?  It there really a better way to start a summer?

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