While school breaks for summer, students often fill their schedule with “fun.” Camps, day programs, and vacations are all the stuff summer evokes for many students and parents. I am often approached towards the end of the year by parents and students to ask about creative options for the summer. For parents and students, I developed a handout to help parents and students know where to look for local opportunities to further their art education over the summer months, and if you are an art educator, you may want to do the same. Here are the general opportunities that you will find for preteens and teens over the summer.
Summer is a time students can focus on their passions. If art is one, consider how you can provide opportunities in the arts. As a teacher, I put together a comprehensive list where families could turn for art classes in the summer. Look towards your community art organizations, summer recreation programs, museums, town education programs, local colleges, art associations, businesses, etc to find classes. Those programs and offerings are often easily accessible through an internet search. You will often find a wide variety of classes from basic painting and drawing to media-specific. classes like photography, printmaking, fashion, ceramics, etc.
From day camps to sleep away counts, camp is a summer tradition for many. You can also find art-specific camps and camps that have an art and crafts component. Summer is the perfect time to allow students to explore, experiment, and relax from the school year pressures. One of my student’s parents spoke enthusiastically about her high school daughter’s summer art enrichment program, saying her daughter really connected to the other artistically minded campers and her daughter seemed more comfortable and confident in herself after the experience.
Create at home
I encourage parents who want to encourage creativity in their children to provide opportunities at home. How do you do that, particularly if art isn’t a subject you feel terribly knowledgeable about? I encourage parents, when possible, to create a creative space in their home. Where they can be a little messy. This could be a desk or table in their child’s room or a corner of the family room. The next thing is to keep some basic creative supplies. Over the years I have been surprised to learn that not every house keeps basic creative supplies in the house, like glue and construction paper. So, here is a list of supplies that I feel are good to have in every home for middle and high school learners. Buying these basics during back-to-school sales will often save you time and money down the road. Teachers will often assign “fun” projects that will tap these sorts of materials so it’s best to have them on hand.
Basic Art Supply Recommendations:
Glue: glue sticks, and craft glue like Elmer’s Glue
Color pencils, Crayola brand is fine, for older students a set of Prismacolor is nice
Pack of construction paper
White drawing paper
Basic #2 pencils
For the middle school art student: A tabletop easel, tempera paints, brushes, watercolor set, watercolor paper, oil pastels, apron (or old oversized shirt)
For the high school art student: Canvas board, sketchbook, brushes, acrylic paint, paint palette, pastels
Plan a trip to an art museum, gallery, or studio. I took my high school classes to a museum and after being there a few minutes a student walks up to me and asks, “Are these paintings real?” And she bombarded me with other questions. “How can museums afford all this art? How valuable is this art?” In all her 16 years apparently had never stepped foot into a museum. While art may not become every family’s hobby, don’t make them strangers to museums either.
Respond to your child’s art positively. Ask questions about what they learned when making the art. Put up your child’s work, even frame a favorite piece. A nice mat and frame can really make even a beginner’s efforts look impressive and will make a child feel proud.
Be a maker yourself!
If you have a hobby, share it. Sewing, needlepoint, and even house projects are great opportunities to build dexterity, learn skills and become a maker. Let your children try or assist you. My daughter has helped her dad construct a grill, replace a toilet tank, and taught herself to crochet thanks to YouTube. She’s marbled paper with me and been to numerous museums, galleries, and art shows. She’s moved from being a restless toddler to a thoughtful observer now in her teens.
Get creative with jobs and volunteering
Over the years my students have used the experiences from my art class to find jobs. My students have worked in local clay studios, as an assistant in art classes, and at local art and crafts stores to name a few. One even landed an apprenticeship at a local architecture firm while in high school. My own child earned community volunteer hours her high school requires by volunteering as an aide for classes for special needs adults at our community center.
Upper high school students may have the goal of using the summer to fill out their portfolio for applying to art colleges or for supplemental for non-art majors. There are businesses that will work with students one-on-one. Some colleges host pre-college programs that will help develop work for portfolios. Your local community art center and art educators may also provide these opportunities as well.
Some teachers give their advanced art classes and AP classes summer homework. This assignment was actually an example of a teacher’s summer work for an advanced art class. You can find examples of teachers’ summer AP assignments below.