Inventive EcoArtists

Written by Celia Benton
    Thursday, 28 August 2014
Inventive EcoArtists

Summer camp at the Urban Ecology Center is awesome for me as an educator. It’s laid back and having the same campers for four days means we have the opportunity to focus on activities they are interested in and help them gain a more in-depth knowledge of the environments just outside the Center’s doors.

EcoArt is one camp that particularly sticks out in my mind as the perfect example of why summer camp is so great. I led the camp with one of my fabulous interns (hi Karla!) and together we planned for a week of inspiring art within nature. The camp is for students who have completed 3rd or 4th grade and we focused on at least one art project per day, utilizing a different medium every day. 

During one of the days, we went to the Mitchell Park Domes where each student drew and painted their favorite flowers. On another we spent the day looking for bugs and creating mini-sculptures of them out of pipe cleaners and beads.

During our day-long photography session, each camper used a digital camera to take photos around the Menomonee Valley and at Grant Park beach. The pictures the campers took are amazing and each one represents a unique point of view. One camper found human teeth particularly interesting while another shot fantastic landscapes. And there were some pretty hilarious selfies thrown in the mix as well.

photo by Paul Owen Maynard

photo by Osmar Naba

The photos above are by Paul Owen Maynard (flowers) and Osmar Naba (bridge),
two of our fantastic EcoArt campers.

While all of the days were remarkable, our crafting and stenciling day was the most memorable for me. Some pretty neat things happened that day. We started with mud stenciling. You fill in this stencil with a mud mixture instead of paint – which meant we could pretty much stencil anywhere. We chose the back patio area of the Center. Mud stenciling was messy, squishy and tons of fun. The campers soon progressed from stencils to creating their own mud paintings on the wall and around the deck.

After we finished stenciling, we made puppets out of a simple pattern and brown paper lunch bags. When Karla and I planned the day, we scheduled a thirty minute puppet making project we could do after lunch before the afternoon outdoor adventure. We clearly underestimated how creative the campers would be.

Not only did the campers take time to create very detailed puppets, they were so excited they actually created a full puppet show and presented to some of us lucky staff. Best yet — the puppet show had an underlying theme of saving the environment!

Yep, that’s right. With no prompting, the campers came up with a puppet show in which each puppet had a super power and an underlying story on why caring for the environment is important. That’s pretty awesome, don’t you think? I can’t wait for summer camp next year, and I hope to see many more campers at the Valley branch!

You don’t have to wait until next summer to create art at the Menomonee Valley branch. Make your own masterpiece at our EcoArt program on Saturday, September 27.

Celia Benton

Celia Benton

As an environmental educator in the Menomonee Valley, Celia Benton loves watching students express their sense of wonder and awe at the many creatures big and small found near the Center. In addition to being an educator, Celia is a professional urban planner and novice baker. Celia also loves to travel, but feels terribly guilty every time she leaves her three cats at home - including one she adopted as a Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador. Yes, this cat does speak Spanish. "Miau" 

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