Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
SUMMER ACTIVITIES TO SHARE WITH STUDENTS
by Heidi O’Hanley
It’s the end of the school year, and sometimes, parents may be calling you asking for ideas during summer break. Every year, I receive emails from parents and guardians asking what activities to recommend to continue their child’s creative development over the summer break. I’ve listed a few options that I’ve gathered and shared with parents through our school’s social media sites throughout the time away from school.
1. ART CLASSES. Many local art studios, cultural centers, and park districts offer various art classes throughout the summer for affordable prices. These classes can dive more in depth with methods and materials than a school setting because the workshop time frame can extend up to a few hours past the time in a normal art class setting. Over the summer break, I teach kids classes at a local art studio. When the time constraint is not as crunched, students can dive further in with exploration of materials and processes while creating amazing products.
2. PRIVATE ART LESSONS. Whether you or a local artist offer the private lessons, it never hurts to recommend individual or small setting lessons to help a student improve their artistic skills. When I was in elementary school, I had the opportunity to take private lessons from a local artist to help with my painting skills. It’s similar to tutoring for improvement of craftsmanship.
3. VISITING A MUSEUM. If you live near a bigger town or city, most likely there are art museums within reach that students and families can visit. In Chicago, Rembrandt’s portraits will be featured at the Art Institute of Chicago. In New York City, the Museum of Modern Art is featuring the works of surreal artist Joan Miró. Many museums will feature artworks created by artists you may have introduced to your students, and it’s really exciting to view the artworks in person.
4. PRACTICE COMPOSITION WITH PHOTOGRAPHY. Many upper elementary level students now have access to smartphones, so what about encouraging your students to practice their photography? If you’ve had a chance to introduce a few composition tips to your students in any grade level, encourage them to practice those composition shots. Even better, if families have their own camera, students can become more familiar with traditional camera settings.
5. BRING A SMALL JOURNAL WHEREVER YOU GO. I encourage my own kids to bring a small journal or sketchbook whenever we go out. Some of the best sketches we’ve created together are when we sit by the lake looking out over the waterfront. Encourage your students (and parents) to carry a small journal or sketchbooks when they go out and see if they pick up any interesting details on their visits.
6. ATTEND A GALLERY. Many towns, whether big or small, will have local art galleries that feature creations from local artists. Why not encourage families to attend an opening or show within their local community? In visiting local galleries, students and families can meet and learn about local artists within their own community.
7. SUMMER CAMPS. Many summer camps offered in your area offer a variety of activities for students to participate in, including visual art projects. There are even camps available specifically designed for the arts. This option is normally on the higher end of a family’s price range, but is an excellent opportunity for students to practice and refine their artistic skills. Many colleges (like the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) also offer an early college program for high school students, similar to a summer camp.
8. CREATE A PAINT PARTY. Art studios are beginning to pop up around many towns across the country, which offer classes, parties, and events for painting on canvas, ceramics, or wooden boards. This is also a great idea for a kid’s birthday party over the summer. The art studios normally take care of all the supplies, all you bring is the attendees and snacks. These types of parties follow a step-by-step process with painting; I’ve attended a few just to be a student and see how other teachers lead their classes.
9. GO ON AN “ART WALK.” Some towns and cities house amazing murals and sculptures around their communities. Why not encourage your families to go for a walk within town and learn the sites? There is an amazing app called “Field Trip” that locates and describes many historic locations and artworks in cities around the globe. This would help the family learn more about their local artworks and history together.
I hope you and your students have a great summer break. I also encourage you to continue your own creative pursuits while you have time away from the art room! It’s a good way to focus on your own care and inspire new ideas for the next school year!
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT), teaches art at Brodnicki Elementary School in Justice, Illinois. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.