Connecting Kids to Art and Nature

DaVinci campers pose for a portrait in front of the mural many made with Justine last year.

DaVinci camp’s “Planet Protectors” pose for a portrait in front of the mural many made with Justine last year.

The young campers who attended the four-week DaVinci summer day camp last month, sponsored by the Seward Boys and Girls Club, connected both to their own artistic abilities and powers of observation, and to the wonders of nature. They learned more about the scientific processes at work in the natural environment, and also took direct action to promote and protect it. Camp attendance averaged 22 campers per week, with over one hundred hours of art and science activities provided by Bob Stark and Justine Pechuzal.

Planet Protectors prepare the soil for their new natural garden outside the elementary school.

Planet Protectors prepare the soil for their new natural garden outside the elementary school.

As “Planet Protectors,” the camp’s main theme, they planted a garden from seeds, which they may watch grow beautiful over the course of the summer. They helped in creating the new Schoolyard Habitat Restoration Project, preparing the soil and planting indigenous berries, plants and trees to replace the imported ones around Seward Elementary School, as they learned about invasive species.

They visited the small boat harbor and learned about fishing, marine food chains, and how to identify the kinds of fish being caught in Resurrection Bay. Science activities also included nature walks with identification of native plant species and their traditional uses based on Dena’ina Native Alaska plant lore. The last week focused on human use of natural resources and how to sustainably use them through practicing the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle.

Campers witness the harvesting of Resurrection Bay  resources at J-Dock.

Campers witness the harvesting of Resurrection Bay resources at J-Dock.

In addition to art and science activities, campers were introduced to influential and inspirational community members who detailed their first-hand accounts with gardening, fishing, and conservation work.



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Art activities focused on observation-based nature sketching, color theory, and painting techniques.  The subject of each art lesson tied into the ecological theme for the week.  For example, during week two, campers studied the art element of value, and painted native plants such as the chocolate lilly using different color values.  Campers visited Resurrect Gallery where they were shown how their teacher applied the art concepts that they were learning to the creation of her own artwork.  Campers also visited local potters Tom and Sharon Irving to learn about the process of throwing, firing, and glazing clay vessels.

DaVinci Camp experienced two significant unanticipated results.  Early in the camp, Bob found the book ‘Leonardo da Vinci for Kids: His Life and Ideas’.   As they learned about da Vinci’s life through daily story time, everyone realized that the genius’s artistic and scientific process mirrored the work we were doing in camp- more specifically, learning about the natural world through direct observation and reflection!

Tom Irvin demonstrates to the DaVinci campers how to throw pottery.

Tom Irvin demonstrates to the DaVinci campers how to throw pottery.

The second unanticipated result was a fantastic musical collaboration between Bob, Justine and the campers that formed from their daily jam sessions. The kids wrote an original camp song based on what they were learning that we sang at the start of every camp day.  Campers came up with original motions to go along with the song, which we performed for the Boys and Girls Club summer program.  Campers learned two other American folk songs that will be performed along with the DaVinci Camp song at the DaVinci Camp art show on July 5th

The DaVinci Camp was sponsored and funded by the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Rasmuson Foundation and Seward Community Foundation.

Thanks to the Boys and Girls Club DaVinci Camp instructors Bob Stark and Justine Pechuzal, and director Deb Bond for providing the above information and photos, and to the many other people in the community (not all of who were mentioned) who shared their talents, hobbies, and enthusiasm to make this camp such a great experience. HZ

Young camper produces leaf-art.

Young camper produces leaf-art.

2 Comments

  1. Mary Tougas says:

    This is a great program and a wonderful experience for our youth. Thank you to the funders/grantors and the Boys and Girls Club! Great job.