Volume 3: December 2010

YMCA Summer Day Camp: Developing an EcoArt Curriculum for Local Children

Children at the YMCA summer camp proudly display the bird masks they made with the Community Arts interns.

Four Allegheny College students are helping fourth and fifth graders discover innovative ways to connect the arts and the environment during the Meadville Family YMCA’s day camp this summer.

Each week, the Allegheny students lead campers in projects that link environmental arts to the camp’s weekly themes, which include personal identity, American heroes and healthy lifestyles. The students’ work is part of the Community Arts initiative of Allegheny’s Center for Economic and Environmental Development.

“We try to take the campers out of the ‘this is what art is’ mindset and inspire innovation in them,” said Teresa Bensel, a studio art major and values, ethics & social action (VESA) minor from Meadville.  “Art isn’t necessarily a piece of paper with pencil marks on it—art can be anywhere.”

In mid-July, inspired by the work of eco-artist Andy Goldsworthy, campers created their own eco-art with materials from the nature trail at the Meadville Area Recreation Complex. They transformed leaves, flowers, rocks and twigs into temporary art installations along the trail, focusing on concepts such as shape and color. (Watch a student-produced video about the project below.)

“The best thing about working with the kids is that they are at the age where they are already constantly thinking outside of the box,” said Bensel. “It’s always so much fun to hear the stories they tell and see what they can come up with.”

Also participating in the project are Allegheny students Matt Reilly, an art and technology major and computer science minor from Pittsburgh; Emma Cook, an environmental studies major and studio art minor from Conewango Valley, N.Y.; and Gretchen Wood, an English and environmental studies double major from Meadville.

The 32nd oldest college in the nation, Allegheny College will celebrate its bicentennial in 2015. A selective, residential liberal arts college, Allegheny is one of 40 colleges included in Loren Pope’s “Colleges That Change Lives” and also is featured in “Harvard Schmarvard: Getting Beyond the Ivy League to the College That Is Best for You” and Peterson’s “Competitive Colleges, 400 Colleges That Attract the Best and the Brightest.”

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