Developing a healthy and positive self-esteem is a vital key to happiness and success in life, which is why, as parents, we’re always doing what we can to encourage our child’s sense of confidence.
We read books about it, we read blogs, we listen to podcasts, we become their biggest fan and largest cheering section (“You brushed your teeth! Excellent job!”); we hang their kindergarten crafts on the wall, we brag about their many talents in front of them, we constantly celebrate their wins, and we sign them up for activities that will give them sense of pride and help them feel good about themselves.
Studies show that participation in the arts increases self-esteem and self-efficacy. Long-term participation can certainly have greater and more pronounced benefits, but even a week at a summer art camp can make a huge impact.
Take a look at how summer art camps can do what you as a parent are always trying to do: boost self-esteem in your child.
1. Art camps encourage self-expression.
Art, unlike craft, is the about the expression of ideas and feelings. When children are encouraged to express and create based on their own thoughts and emotions, they learn that what they think and feel is important and valued.
3. Art camps introduce new experiences.
Trying new things can be scary for children (and adults, who are we trying to kid?), but it can also increase confidence in their own abilities the more they do it.
Art camps provide a supportive environment to take risks, and they encourage campers to do new things every day, from working with new materials, to mastering new skills, to attempting new projects. When campers experience the successes they have trying new things at camp, they feel more excited and confident to try new things elsewhere as well.
4. Art camps require effort.
Don’t get us wrong, requiring effort does not mean art camp isn’t a ton of fun! Creating anything requires effort, so we select projects that are cool and exciting so they don’t even realize the high level of effort they’re putting into them.
No one else does the projects for them so the pay-off with their accomplishment means a lot to them.
When campers are able to pour themselves into a project, challenging themselves to make their own creative choices, practice technical skills, apply new-found knowledge, and problem solve in a creative way, they learn to trust themselves and their abilities.
They learn that through effort they can plan and create entire works of art that they are proud to show off. A sense of accomplishment and pride comes when children work hard at a project that they care about.
When campers and students expand their confidence and develop a healthy self-esteem, they are curious about learning new things, and at Museo Art Academy, our main goals are to instill an appreciation for art and a love of learning in all of our students. The confidence they build in our art programs enables them to take risks and work hard for success in other areas of their lives.
Learn more about our summer art camps for kids and teens here.
Myers, R. (2016). 11 Ways to Help Your Kid Build Self-Esteem. [online] Today's Parent. Available at: https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/how-to-build-your-childs-self-esteem/ [Accessed 2 Apr. 2018].
ArtsEdSearch. (2018). Students - Research Overview. [online] Available at: http://www.artsedsearch.org/students/research-overview [Accessed 2 Apr. 2018].
Lock, C. Turn to the Arts to Boost Self-Esteem. [online] PBS Kids. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/turn-to-the-arts-to-boost-self-esteem/ [Accessed 1 Apr. 2018].
ArtsEdSearch. (2018). Imaginative actuality: Learning in the arts during nonschool hours. [online] Available at: http://www.artsedsearch.org/summaries/imaginative-actuality-learning-in-the-arts-during-nonschool-hours [Accessed 2 Apr. 2018].
In pre-schools, elementary schools, day camps and stay-over camps alike, ‘arts’ and ‘crafts’ are words that you have likely seen bundled together. With these two terms being packaged and sold as one generalized subject and hobby, many treat the words as interchangeable, so that when we say “art camp”, often “arts and crafts” is actually what it is taken to mean.
However, arts and crafts are not the same thing; they are actually different and distinct forms of creativity.
So if they are different, what is it that distinguishes arts from crafts, from an educational standpoint, and what’s the big fuss about anyway? Why does it really matter (or does it?)?
First Things First: Why It Matters
Education wise, arts and crafts differ in the type of instruction given, the type of skills being learned and practiced, the type of projects chosen, and the type of outcomes strived for and achieved.
Because of this, the difference between the two matters depending on what you hope your child is learning and practicing in an art class and art camp.
Alright, let's jump in.
Summed Up: Arts vs. Crafts
The main difference between the two is the end goal in creation, all other differences stem from this one.
Art is more focused on using tools and materials to express an emotion or idea, while craft is more focused on using tools and materials to create a specific tangible object or product.
With crafts, because there is a specific end goal in mind, like the caterpillar clothes pin project, there have to be specific steps that must be followed in order to reach that end.
For example, say you wanted to make a turtle using a paper plate. You might have green paint for the plate, green paper cut outs of legs and tail and head, and a couple of googly eyes.
Now in order to do this project and actually have it come out looking like the cute little turtle it's supposed to be, there are not too many variations you could make; the structures are rigid. The tail would need to be glued opposite of the head, the legs have to be glued two on each side, and the googly eyes would need to be glued next to each other on the head section.
In terms of creativity, it's possible to be creative with a craft, but the parameters of what you can be creative with are narrow, otherwise you’re making a different project.
Say, if you glued the turtle tail next to the head and put four feet next to each other on one side, and glued the googly eyes to a foot, you would not have anything close to a recognizable turtle, and so would not have actually completed the intended project.
With crafts so focused on the end result of making something that looks cool (aesthetics are part of the goal), there isn’t too much room for in-depth art learning.
Instead, you’re mostly learning how to follow directions and maybe how to re-create the craft again, while practicing fine motor skills.
While crafts are focused on making something that looks good and can be reproduced, art is not focused on either of those things.
First of all, art is not necessarily about aesthetics, as it is informed by emotion, so a work of art can still be art without being traditionally beautiful.
Secondly, art also cannot be reproduced, as artists create many different works, instead of just making the same thing over and over again (as if you were to make many paper plate turtles). As one writer put it, “There is only one true Mona Lisa, all the rest are simply imperfect copies.”
So if you’re practicing direction-following skills with crafts, what are you learning and practicing while creating art?
Great question! Let’s give an example. Let’s say we’re doing a masters study with our students. A master study is where we re-create a master artist’s work.
Waiiit, hold up! you say, Didn’t we just talk about how art can’t be re-created? And doesn’t that sound like you have the end goal in mind, aka craft?
Yes, yes, while we may be having students recreate the work (but remember, there is only one Mona Lisa), the focus in this project is never on the final outcome; it’s on the journey to get there.
Starting the project, our instructors always go in depth about the history of the piece and the artist, discussing topics like: Why is this artwork important? How did it contribute to history? What is our goal for recreating it? (For instance, we might be recreating a van Gogh to learn how to utilize various brush strokes.)
Once we begin the painting, the discussion is still on the process of the work. We may look at how an artist did a specific technique, and then use that example to walk students through learning and utilizing that technique.
In these art projects, instead of a rigid structure, students have room for their own interpretation of the technique, and their personal application shows.
We're also always talking about personal observations of a master study, asking students what they see in the work and how they can apply what they see in their own piece.
By the time we finish the project, it’s a great painting that has been informed by the artist’s own touch and understanding and usage of artistic techniques, but it’s also only the finishing touch on a long conversation about the process that went into it’s creation.
This conversation about process is a part of all of the projects that we do at Museo Art Academy. Let’s say we’re in a camp and we do an ink project of an animal. We might have an example that students can reference, but we’re also asking students to think about their work, what they’re seeing, what techniques will be used, and then to apply what they think is the best solution (within artistic reason. If there’s something that can be done in a better way artistically, we take that teaching opportunity).
In this way, you can see students are learning SO MUCH MORE than simply how to do a specific craft, or how to follow directions.
Instead, those who participate in art are learning and practicing creative problem solving, critical thinking, use of imagination, curiosity, creativity, and innovative thinking, along with artistic techniques, art elements & design principles, and art history.
Both arts and crafts can be awesome activities, but they are not necessarily equal. When choosing an art program for your child, it's a good idea to know and understand what type of projects your child will be doing to ensure that they are getting the most out of their experience.
To read more about the what your child is learning while also having a blast creating art, check out our blog about What Your Child Learns in Summer Art Camps.
But don't just read about our programs, try them out for yourself. Save your child's spot in one of our summer art camps now and let us know what you think!
Sources not directly linked in article:
Dutton, D. (2018). Denis Dutton on Art and Craft. [online] Denisdutton.com. Available at: http://www.denisdutton.com/rnz_craft.htm [Accessed 22 Mar. 2018].
Art Site. (2018). Differences between Art and Craft. [online] Available at: http://www.artsite.tv/differences-between-art-and-craft/ [Accessed 22 Mar. 2018].
Markowitz, S. (1994). The Distinction between Art and Craft. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 28(1), 55-70. doi:10.2307/3333159
Preschool Plan It. (2018). Arts VS Crafts. [online] Available at: https://www.preschool-plan-it.com/arts-vs-crafts.html [Accessed 23 Mar. 2018].
After all the deliberation that goes into choosing the right summer camp for your child, many parents want to know what they can expect from the camps they choose.
It's summer and time for fun in the sun, so you, of course, want to know your child will have a great time and enjoy what they're doing, but the best camps are the ones that can be a blast while also teaching campers valuable skills they may not even know they're learning.
Art camps are not only creative and colorful fun, but can also be a great way to keep your child's brain fresh and exercised during those long summer months. Let's take a look at all the things your child learns while making their beautiful works of art at camp.
1. Artistic Skills and Techniques
We’re sure you were hoping that by sending your child to an ART camp that they’d actually pick up some artistic skills and techniques. Not to fear, that’s first on our list!
Our art camps are like intensives in each discipline. While we seek to create curriculum that is fun and exciting for kids, we also want to make sure our campers are receiving the best in visual art instruction.
In Drawing and Painting camps, campers learn observational skills - how to take what they see in real life and transfer it to their paper. They’ll learn about perspective, about using simple shapes to outline objects, they’ll learn about lighting, and how to add values for depth, they’ll learn about color theory, how to mix colors, and how to use color to hide or enhance objects in their work.
Campers learn how to develop their spatial skills in Sculpture and Pottery camps, and how thinking three-dimensionally is very different from 2D. They’ll broaden their sense of what “sculpture” means working with a variety of different materials, and they’ll learn techniques for working with ceramic clay both on and off the wheel.
In Mixed Media camp, campers have opportunities to really extend their skills by working with a little bit of everything. Here, we take mediums from different artistic areas and give campers exposure to a variety of learning and skill building in those areas. Campers may discuss color theory and spatial awareness while creating found-object collages, they may practice painting skills and brush control in the same piece that they also learn best practices for using chalk pastels. They may learn how drawing techniques can assist with creating a rubber block prints and how color mixing may determine which colors they choose for inking their prints.
In whichever camp your child chooses to attend at Museo Art Academy, you can be sure they are learning and practicing a variety of real artistic skills and techniques – skills and techniques some of our instructors didn’t even learn in their art classes until college.
What if they’ve “done this before”?
Even if your child has learned and practiced some of these techniques before, our instructors challenge them to take their skills to the next level, expanding their abilities to create more challenging and rewarding works of art.
Creative problem solving is more than just for the art room; it’s a skill that’s gaining more press and discussion for its value in the work force and the tech industry, as reported by numerous studies by the U.S. Department of Education, Bloomberg, and World Economic Forum.
Adobe, the company that creates the Adobe Suite, says that according to their survey on creative problem solving to educators and policy makers, “Almost 90 percent of respondents believe students who excel at creative problem solving will have higher-earning job opportunities in the future, and 85 percent agreed that these same skills are in high demand by today’s employers for senior-level and higher-paying careers.”
Our camps teach creative problem solving by teaching students to value creativity and to harness its use in problem solving when approaching challenges.
3. How to Take Constructive Feedback
Ah, yes, everyone’s favorite skill to cultivate: taking constructive criticism! Okay, so it may not be our favorite skill to actually practice, but we can certainly agree that it’s an incredible important life skill to have, since in order to develop ourselves in anyway, we have to be able to take feedback and learn how to apply it to our situation.
Our job as instructors is to help campers understand how to apply the skills they’re learning correctly, and how to make adjustments to their work to make sure those skills are being applied in the right way. We keep our campers to instructor ratio small so that we can give individualized instruction when needed in a helpful and empowering way.
We also use our camps to teach students how to evaluate their own work. At the end of the week, if time permits, we have campers go through their work and choose their favorite and least favorite piece they made. They then get to share with the class why they chose each piece, and share where they believe they did well, and where they could have done better.
4. To Try New Things
Our camps seek to give campers new experiences in a safe and supportive environment – whether it’s learning how to draw an animal from a picture, or it’s carving a woodblock for print, or it’s manipulating wire to create a wire sculpture portrait, campers are being exposed to new materials and techniques.
The more exposure to learning new activities not only creates and strengthens neuron pathways in the brain, but also builds confidence and helps lessen the intimidation of trying new things in other areas of life. The more positive experiences children have with trying new things, the more open to trying something new they will be in the future.
Art camps are a great opportunity for children to push themselves and grow in many different ways over the summer months. Here at Museo Art Academy, we seek to cultivate a love and appreciation of art in each of the students and campers that come through our doors, through making art fun and approachable.
Museo Art Academy offers a wide range of art camps at our Issaquah studio for campers to choose from – drawing, painting, sculpture, mixed media, and pottery, with a new project every week. Learn more about our art camps here.
Sources not already directly linked in article:
No matter what your income, we all want to get the most for our money. During the summer, there are so many options and fun activities that can make us feel like money is flying out the window of a car on the freeway. So, let's stop the madness.
At Museo Art Academy, our art camps aren’t just another summer “time-filler”. They’re valuable art lessons and hands-on experiences rolled up into a whole lot of fun! We hire the best-of-the-best instructors who use professional grade materials to teach our high-standards curricula in an entertaining and memorable manner.
Because of this, we don't believe in discounting our high-quality art camps, but we do believe in rewarding YOU for sharing the news about us.
So we've devised two super easy ways you can save on summer camps by sharing the good news about Museo - AND you can save even if you've already signed up for camps and paid.
2. Become a Museo Ambassador at your workplace.
It's simple - we'll send you a Summer Camps flyer with your own special promo code on it for you to post in your workplace. Every time someone new to Museo signs up with your promo code, you'll get a $10 referral credit on your account (and they will too - win-win!).
If you're interested in being a Museo Ambassador - send us a quick email at MuseoArtAcademy@live.com and we'll send you your own flyer with your personal promo code to print out.
We look forward to your child joining us for camp this year; we have lots of fun projects planned and are getting more and more excited as the dates get closer! Thank you for valuing high-quality arts programs and for sharing about us with your friends.
If you haven't yet signed up for our summer camps, check them out asap and snag your spot!
We interviewed Ms. Allison, one of our instructors, and asked her how she celebrates with art. Check out her fun answer below:
We love to incorporate art into our every day lives at all times of the year, but the holidays present a special time that calls us to be thoughtful, to be intentional, and to focus on meaningful activities in our life - all of which creating art encourages.
So, we're focusing on sharing ways we celebrate with art and the ways that you can also celebrate the holidays with art this year - both with us and on your own at home with the fam.
One way you can start off the holiday season as it approaches is creating Favorite Holiday Memory Artwork. This is a great activity for the whole family to do together and a great way to set intentions for the upcoming season, OR can be used as just a fun art prompt for the kids to get them into the holiday spirit.
The prompt: create a work of art the displays your Favorite Holiday Memory. This can be favorite OF ALL TIME, or if you do this more years in a row, you can pick the last year's memories to choose from.
Why do it: This activity requires each participant to reflect on all the many holiday memories you've had, and you may be surprised by who chooses which memory to focus on. For instance: one of my favorite holiday memories is when our power went out one Christmas Eve and we cooked our Christmas dinner over the kerosene heater and opened presents by flashlight - completely not planned and definitely chaotic, but we had a blast being in the "adventure" together.
Once everyone is done with their piece of artwork, take turns presenting the memory you chose to memorialize - why it was the one chosen, and why you made the artistic choices you did in the work. You can then discuss how to make time to recreate those favorite memories this year - if one art work depicted making holiday cookies with grandma, or reading on the floor next to the Christmas tree, make specific plans to do those activities again.
You can even make a specific album of "Favorite Holiday Memories" with your new works of art and add to them each year for a creative way to keep track of your family's favorite times.
We'll be posting more about how you can celebrate with art at home. For now, check out how we're celebrating in the studio.
Are you interested in having your child begin an art class, but just not sure which class would be the best one to start them in?
We get this question from parents often, and to be perfectly honest: there’s not really a set “right” answer.
But we’re happy to talk through the options with you and to provide a little more understanding of why you might choose one class over the other. So here we go:
Our First (& Best) Piece of Advice: Follow the Interest
Should we really give out our best secret first? We’ve already hinted so fine, we'll spill: the best place to start is in whichever medium your child has expressed interest (if they have at all).
And I know, you’re like “my children would literally eat only cheerios all day every day if I let them, how are they qualified to make decisions on their education?” Fair point. However, studies show (as does probably our own assessment of how we spend our days) that we all are naturally more motivated to put effort into activities we like.
This New York Times Opinion piece by Adam Grant encourages parents who want to raise creative children to let their children’s natural interests determine the activities we sign them up for, instead of forcing our own interests or ideas of what we want them to do on them. (Not that we necessarily 100% support all the opinions expressed in this piece, but he brings up a good argument to consider.)
So, instead of bribing your child into a drawing class when they’ve been begging to do clay, you could have them start in the clay class and see how they do (and we can always transfer them to a different class later.)
Or maybe you both could work out a compromise of 6 months of clay and 6 months of drawing.
OR another good compromise might be in one of our General Art classes.
Can’t decide on just one? Try General Art.
If you’re ever unsure of where to start your child or what they might be most interested in, our general art classes are great starter classes because your child will gain exposure to the widest range of media that we offer.
General art works great as a compromise between classes, as a class to test interest, or a class for those who love to try new thing often.
Out of all of our classes, our general art classes have the strongest art history element and provide a well-rounded curriculum in a range of media: drawing, painting, sculpture, fibers, clay, mixed media and others. Because our curriculum is monthly project based, each month your child will be working with something new.
If after a while in this class, they decide they’d like to focus on one particular discipline, we can always transfer them there, but we often have students who chose to stay in general art classes because they prefer the variety.
Okay, but what about Drawing vs. Painting?
First, we still hold to what we said earlier: whichever one your child is more interested in is a great place to start.
Secondly, there is no specific order necessary; drawing and painting do go hand in hand and you’ll get a bit of both in each class.
Painting is more color based, drawing is more linear and value based. Both classes will have projects where your child will learn and utilize elements of the other discipline.
That being said, drawing is the basis for most everything in art and design. The first thing a person usually does to visually process the world around them is to draw it out. Training your hand to draw what you see will be beneficial no matter what medium your child ends up working with. But you don’t always have to start there.
If your child is interested in painting and wants to be great at it, somewhere along the way, taking a drawing class will greatly improve their paintings, but it certainly isn’t as a pre-requisite.
3D vs. 2D?
Working with 3D vs. 2D materials are only a matter of personal preference. Some children prefer or even focus better when working with more tactile materials, while some prefer to stick to what comes out when they put their paintbrush or pencil to paper.
In our clay classes, we often have students draw out their design (again, see above what we wrote about drawing being a great way to visually process the world around us), but they don’t need to be master sketchers to do this.
Polymer clay or Ceramic clay?
Polymer clay is a type of colorful modeling clay that can be baked in the oven, and it’s a little easier for smaller hands to mold. As we do offer classes for 7-9 year-olds in both Polymer and Ceramic clay we believe both can learn to use either type; however, sometimes we recommend that younger students and students who are still working on fine motor skills to start with Polymer clay before moving to ceramic clay that takes a bit more hand muscle and control to sculpt.
Or, if your child is just more drawn to the colorful clay, that’s a great reason to start there too.
For those of you who were stressing that you’d start your child in the wrong class and forever ruin their arts education, we hope we’ve relieved your fear a little because that probably won’t happen.
For those hoping we’d give you a more of a set road plan, we’d love to talk with you and your child about their interest and goals for these classes. We can certainly come up with a recommended long-term plan together that can be edited at any phase to account for changing interests and goals along the way. If you’d be interested, email us at MuseoArtAcademy@live.com
We talked about Process over Product in our last blog post, what it means, why we care, and why it makes a HUGE difference in your child's education (head over there if you haven't already!).
But now we want to show you what Process over Product looks like IN ACTION (aka in our classes).
To briefly summarize key points in our education philosophy, valuing process over product means we believe in taking time to learn and practice techniques and skills before worrying about producing a perfect product.
It also means your student will not be drawing one landscape before we declare they are done with landscapes and never need to draw one again. As they gain more skills and move through our classes and programs, we teach them more techniques that can be used to create a more realistic landscapes, they have more time to practice values and perspective and slowly, their landscape drawings will improve.
So when you hear your child is drawing *another* landscape or portrait, that means they are getting another chance to build on their skills and learn and practice more, NOT that they're just doing something that they've already done before.
You wouldn't expect your basketball player to shoot and make one basket and call themselves "done'. You'd encourage them to keep practicing over and over until they've honed their skills.
Let's take a look at a simple portrait as created in each age-grouping of our classes to show the progression of skills and techniques as students learn and age. We'll also briefly discuss the skills that are introduced and focused on in each age-appropriate level.
When we've run classes for this age group in the past, we mainly focus on an introduction to art materials, and focus on emotions and color. When drawing portraits, we discuss basic facial features.
In our Intro to Art class for ages 4-5, we continue to introduce art materials and what they are used for. In this class, we begin to use simple shapes to draw facial features and begin discussion of facial proportions.
In this age group, we continue to have students practice utilizing simple geometric shapes to create facial features and continue developing an understanding of proportions on the face. We begin a slight introduction of shadows and students being associating art history with art techniques.
Using a photograph foundation, students being to thoroughly explore the form of the face by using light and shadow in this age group. A photograph foundation allows students to not be overwhelmed, and to be able to put their attention into the lessons we want them to focus on as we introduce how facial features move to show emotion and how to capture that in our drawings. Students will also begin replicating historical processes with a more in-depth understanding.
Returning to a photographic reference, students further their understanding of the face by using a variety of values to establish a realistic portrait. Students begin to use value (light and shadow) instead of line to define facial features. By now, students' more in-depth understanding of art history helps us to teach them how to apply that knowledge to further their learning.
At this point in our classes, students begin to develop their own project ideas while still functioning within a visual art principle. Students use value to define facial features, and consistently use measuring to define proportion. Students also begin to explore manipulating the elements of design to express their own artistic style.
In all of our classes, we emphasize the importance of practice and effort over the importance of the look of the finished product.
Some students have a natural tendency towards art and drawing, and others have to work harder to produce the same results, but by emphasizing process, we want to make sure each of our students is working hard and pushing themselves, not to achieve a certain set result, but to achieve the best of what they can personally do.
Take a look at our class options here and find one that's right for your child.
We say at Museo Art Academy that we value process over product, and in fact it’s a pillar of our education philosophy, but what exactly does that mean?
Boiled down, it means that your 6-year-old is probably not going to leave our studio with a work of art that looks like Van Gogh rose out of his grave in France to paint it. Instead, it will look like it was painted by your 6-year-old, BUT WAIT! That’s a good thing.
So before you get disappointed that your first grader's art will, in fact, end up looking like a first grader's art (and when you’re paying for art classes, no less!), let’s discuss why, from a developmental and educational standpoint, that this is exactly what you want out of your child’s art education experience.
What is process and what is product?
Process is the way a thing is accomplished and what is learned along the way. When we’re children, process is everything: it’s the way we tell long, imaginative stories with no main point to our parents, it’s how we ride our bike a few feet before falling, dusting off, and trying again; it’s finger painting to squish the paint between our fingers as we glide the paint around the page, watching the colors mix in different ways.
However, by the time we become adults, product becomes king. Product is the end result of efforts. Product is receiving an A on the tough test, it’s getting the diploma, the job, the promotion. It’s meeting a goal, getting an award, earning a title.
How does this apply to art classes?
Product-oriented art would start with an expectation to create something specific that’s envisioned by an adult with specific steps, such as handing a child pompoms, pipe cleaners, googly-eyes and a popsicle stick with the expectation that the child would follow directions to create a caterpillar. Or, another example, would be paint-by-color project where the instructor told the students to use the “correct” colors to fill in the spaces.
In these examples, students aren’t needing to utilize their creativity, or problem-solving skills; instead they’re practicing other types of skills like direction following and hand-eye coordination, which are good things, of course, but they’re not delivering all that could be gained from an art class.
Instead, in process-oriented art, we care more about HOW a child gets to the end result than the end result itself.
This doesn’t mean that we won’t have an envisioned end goal for the project we’re teaching, but it means our focus isn’t whether your child comes home with perfect drawings or a perfect replica of our project example.
We care what techniques were learned and used properly, we care that your child made choices on what they wanted their art look like, we care that your child understands art elements & design principles and how to apply them in their art work, we care that your child understands art movements in history and the relevance they play in today’s understanding of art, we care that your child uses and develops curiosity, creativity, imagination, problem-solving, and innovative thinking.
If at the end of the project and your child has accomplished these things, we count it as a success.
If at the end of the project their still-life pepper they drew and painted isn’t yet Vermeer-worthy, we don’t feel as though we or they have failed; we know they have many, many years of perfecting their skills and techniques to get to the place where they are near that level. Master artists didn’t get to where they are by taking one month of art classes, they got to where they are by putting time and dedication into learning and perfecting their art.
"A" (should actually be) for Effort – the dangers of focusing on product
Getting that A on the test is great, but when the focus is on the product, we often forget the amount of hard work that goes into accomplishing the goal – the late nights, early mornings, and weeks of studying instead of going out with friends or sleeping in.
When we emphasize the product, we downplay the necessity for the hard work and are more likely to conclude that the person who got the A, or won the Nobel Peace Prize is just “really smart” or “really talented”.
In art, when we focus on the importance of the end product, those who are just beginning may get frustrated that their work doesn’t magically look like the instructor’s example and give up, thinking they “aren’t good at art”.
Focusing on product encourages us to say, “well I’m not as smart as she is, so I probably couldn’t get an A on this test” instead of “if I work hard, I could maybe get an A this time”.
We’re not the only ones advocating for process over product
In Angela Duckworth’s book, “Grit”, she explains her research on how those who succeed in life aren’t necessarily the most talented or the smartest individuals, but they are the ones who are willing to persist and to work hard.
But how can we cultivate children to have grit?
Educators are now learning that one of the ways we can “train” grit and work ethic into students is by complimenting a child’s effort instead of the their finished product or their intelligence. When children are told they are “so smart" all the time, when a problem comes up that they don’t know how to handle, instead of thinking, I’m so smart I’ll figure this out, they instead conclude, “I don’t know this, so I must not be smart”, and give up.
By complimenting the effort put into a task, students learn that it’s not what they ARE (smart/not smart, talented/not talented), but what they DO that matters.
So your child is going to come home from our classes with artwork that looks like they did their own work, not like our instructors painted it for them.
But they’re also hopefully going to come home feeling that they are learning and improving and are being given the skills that will help them become better artists and with knowledge that if they work hard enough on those skills, they can be as good as they want to be. And that, for us, is to have succeeded.
And what does process look like in our art classes? Check out this blog post which will show you what process looks like IN ACTION!
But in the meantime, what are your thoughts on process vs. product? We'd love to hear them, so drop us a comment!
A question we hear from parents all too often is, “but my child already did a pottery [insert: drawing, painting, mixed media, etc.] camp, will you be doing anything different this time?”
The short answer is "yes", but we'll explain.
For those familiar with the Arts & Crafts time slots at sleepaway camps or multi-activity day camps, we understand where the question may come from. In a craft setting, campers put the pieces together to create a specific project outcome, a specific product. Say, the project is making a caterpillar with clothes pin, pom-pom balls, googly eyes, and maybe some colorful pipe cleaners if you’re feeling fancy. Clothes pin caterpillars can be a fun project, and maybe you could switch up the colors of the pom-poms, but this project will basically be the same thing if you were to do it more than once.
These craft-type projects require less artistic skills and more direction-following skills. Can your child put six dots of glue on a clothes pin and put six pom-pom balls on top of the dots? Yes? Perfect, he’s done.
Process over Product
While these types of projects have their place in kids’ activities and while learning to follow directions is certainly beneficial, these are not the type of projects we do in our summer art camps (or any of our classes, workshops, or on-site enrichment classes). Because our summer art camps (and classes, workshops, and on-site enrichment classes) focus on the process of creating art and on building of artistic skills, our students are given tools to practice creative problem solving and using imagination in every piece of work they do, instead of simply following a prescribed list of tasks.
Building Skills on Skills
For instance, if we’re teaching our drawing classes or camps to use perspective, our instructors will explain the process and procedure of drawing in perspective, and students may even go step by step through creating the perspective drawing. “But if they’re creating step by step, what’s the difference between the caterpillar craft and this perspective project?” you ask. The difference is, students are learning a skill that they can apply to later problems they run into while creating. They are learning how to draw in a way that conveys and depicts the depth that we see in the natural world. Once they’ve drawn one perspective drawing, are they done? Have they learned all about perspective and now they can check that off their list and move on? No, because the concept will come back again and again and need to be applied in different ways in different circumstances.
You can think about this concept by relating artistic skills to math skills. In first grade, your child learns to add: 1+2=3, 2+2=4, etc. The teacher may take the students step by step through the problems presented on the board., but your child can use these skills later, build on these skills and concepts, and pretty soon, she’s using them to solve for x in her 8th grade algebra class and years later moving on to more difficult concepts involving the letter x in calculus.
Making art can also be related to athletic skill – once your child learns to shoot a basketball, you don’t assume they’ve mastered the skill. Instead, you create opportunities for them to practice shooting the ball, and practice different ways of shooting under different circumstances, otherwise they won’t get better.
The same is true with all skills you learn in art classes, whether you’re working in drawing, painting, mixed media, sculpture, or pottery.
So if your child has attended our camps and drawn a self-portrait before, or has made a coil pot before, or has painted a landscape before, or has worked on the potter's wheel before, they've only just started shooting the ball at the basket. We don’t expect our kids to be "done" with basketball if they went to one practice, or done with gymnastics once they learn to cartwheel; it's the same with art. So to answer the question, what campers will be doing different the next time is: building on the skills they've begun exploring.
And if you find yourself asking, "will my child enjoy that?", chances are if they enjoyed learning and participating the first time, they will probably enjoy more chances to hone their skills and apply their newly-acquired knowledge.
What is your child's favorite camp? Leave us a comment - we'd love to hear.
(And if you're still looking for summer camps, you can view our Summer Art camp option here.)
Sharing our love of art education, one post at a time.