Kids Brush up on Creativity at TNCS Summer Camp with the Painting Workshop!

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Elisabeth Willis, Painting Workshop and TNCS Art Instructor

Summer sessions at The New Century School continue with an exciting block of camps hosted by The Painting Workshop. Led by TNCS art teacher Elisabeth Willis, art camp gives kids the chance to learn new techniques and try out new media while tapping into and expressing their creativity. Each day, they work on one painting/project as well as get lots of free-drawing time and afternoon crafts. Their sole job is to make art, and they really give themselves over to the process.

As the artist-campers experiment with colors, patterns, and brush maneuvers to their hearts’ content, Ms. Willis moves through the classroom, responding to questions and comments. “What do yellow and orange make? What about blue and pink and white?” they might ask. “Why don’t you try it out?” is the unfailingly encouraging response. This camp emphasizes exploration and the freedom to self-express and get creative . . . and even a little messy sometimes!

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Crafting!

Despite all the “self-expression,” going on, the atmosphere is calm and productive. Spills and accidents are handled without fuss, and the kids are gently reminded to keep working until they finish. Ms. Willis is no stranger to the art classroom and brings an impressive amount of experience to her role. She has both a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Art History and a Masters in Art and Teaching from Maryland Institute College of Arts (MICA). She freelanced after graduating in 2011 to spend time on her art, has spent several years with The Painting Workshop, and took over as TNCS art teacher this year.

Typical Day

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Sample creature and habitat

The day starts out with free draw (and each child gets a folder to collect their drawings to bring home at week’s end). About midmorning when everyone has gotten the wiggles (and the squiggles) out, they move on to the main project of the day. Ms. Willis gives step-by-step instructions and demonstrations, and campers get to it. One day recently, for example, Ms. Willis was exploring habitats in three dimensions. she sketched out a model on the whiteboard and then demonstrated how to model a figure (e.g., animal, alien, made-up creature, person) in clay (neon hued, naturally. The next task was to build a habitat for the figure out of paper, felt, pipe cleaners, beads, etc.; their challenge was to give the structure height. Each camper met the challenge but their habitats share almost nothing else in common!

 

Hard at work, painting away

Hard at work, painting away.

Schedule

Each week features a different theme to spark kids’ imaginations and get the creative juices flowing.

Week 1 (June 20–24): Art and Nature The outside world comes alive in this camp where we are inspired by nature. From leaf rubbings and clay pressings, to plein-air painting, and sponge paintings of trees, we celebrate nature through our art!

Week 2 (June 27–July 1): Art and Science Environmental science, chemistry, geology and geography can all be accessed through art. Whether we are making casts of dinosaur bones, or combining various ingredients to make lava for a volcano or to create the best goo, the most pliable clay, or a resistant glue, science is present, and art is the result. We’ll have lots of fun projects, experiments, and fun in this week of camp!

Week 3 (July 5–July 8): Modern Art and You Join us as we explore the world of modern art. From Andy Warhol’s soup cans to Robert Rauschenberg’s constructions, Jackson Pollack’s drip paintings to Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture, we will take a look at their techniques and ideas to inspire our own. Abstract art, conceptual art, collage, sculpture, multi-media, drawing, and painting are all covered in this fun and inspiring class.

Week 4 (July 11–15): Art Around the World Let’s take a trip around the world, exploring art as we go. Stop in Australia and discover aboriginal art. Create your own ancient Greek vase. Explore the calligraphy and printmaking of Japan, the Batik textiles of Indonesia, the landscapes of France and Italy. Art and culture—around the world!

tncs-painting-workshop-summer-campWeek 5 (July 18–22): Under the Sea Water covers more than two thirds of our planet. Within it, we find amphibious life of all description and fauna and flora that exist only in the mysterious world of the sea. This camp celebrates the waters of planet Earth through painting, drawings, sculpture, and—of course—the use of water in art projects! The geology of the ocean, the uses of the ocean, the wonder of the sea—it’s a watery week of imaginative fun!

Week 6 (July 25–29): Creatures Great and Small The world of animals, insects, and birds is magical and inspiring. Join us as we use art to both represent and interpret the animal world. From basic paintings of dogs and cats, to sock monkey puppets, to animal habitats (think jungles and the sea!), we will explore the lively and mysterious world of the creatures that share our planet. Camp may include a visit from a friendly canine, or a lesson from Brittany Roger of The Drawing Zoo, who brings reptiles to drawing classes! Join us for this lively and entertaining week!

Week 7 (August 1–5): Let’s Build! Sculpture Camp This sculpture class incorporates not just clay, but also wood, paper, plaster, and more. Students learn how to build armatures, so that their creations are strong and sturdy, and how to add the finishing touches with paint. We might build something realistic—a rocket ship, a house, an animal—or it could be something abstract such as a beautiful assemblage of colors and shapes. Stretch your imagination and your skills in this fun class!

Week 8 (August 8–12): Art and Stories What are the stories we tell about our paintings? What are the paintings we create from stories? Older campers will write their own stories and poems, while younger ones can create a backdrop to stories told to them, read to them, or created out of their imagination. We will explore graphic design, illustration, painting, drawing, printmaking, and collage. There will even be a visit from a professional storyteller! Join us for a fun and creative week of words, stories, tall tales, and art!

Week 9 (August 15–19): Space Camp What do we see when we look into outer space? Stars, comets, planets, and aliens! Beautiful constellations, fascinating planet mobiles, our own spaceships—anything is possible in this fun week of space exploration!

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Cotton swab loom!

Would you like to register your child(ren) in this engaging and creative camp? Please go here.

Meet the Art Teacher: A Portrait of Elisabeth Willis

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TNCS art teacher Elisabeth Willis.

Recently, The New Century School welcomed a familiar face to the permanent teaching staff. Elisabeth Willis has served as summer art instructor at TNCS (with The Painting Workshop) and also in various other instructor roles around campus since 2014. As TNCS bade farewell (for now) this past January to long-time art teacher Jenny Miller-DeFusco, who is pursuing a graduate degree, Ms. Willis has taken over the helm.

Already immensely popular among the students, she brings an impressive amount of experience to her new role, with both a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Art History and a “MAT”—a Masters in Art and Teaching from the Maryland Institute College of Arts (MICA). Although she anticipated entering the classroom full time one day, she freelanced after graduating in 2011 to spend time on her art. She is a painter, typically using oil or water colors. “I want to keep a balance between teaching and doing my own art. They each inform the other,” she said.

One unique aspect of her art is the scale. “I work very small,” she explained. “Working small” began during a 2008 semester in Italy, where she fell in love with doing landscapes in miniature. In contrast to the vastness of what her fellow students were doing at MICA, such as murals, she found “band-aid size” (approximately 1″ × 3″) and other handheld variations to be just the right fit.

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“Smalltimore”

Not all of her work is tiny, however. She also paints water-color illustrations for children’s books, which she came to as a teenager through her step-mother, who ran the children’s section of a library. Despite that field being notoriously difficult to get a foothold in, she taught herself to paint with water colors, and her initiative has clearly paid off.

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One of Elisabeth Willis’s hauntingly lovely illustrative water colors.

“I really gravitate to water colors,” said Ms. Willis. She has taught adult classes in water color technique through The Painting Workshop, something she may resume in the summer during the academic hiatus.

Regarding her teaching approach at TNCS, she is feeling her way carefully while she determines what students have already been exposed to and what she can introduce anew. “I think kids are a lot better at art than people might give them credit for, so I like doing blind contour drawing, drawing with the non-dominant hand, and especially portraits as early as kindergarten. We go step by step with where the eyes go and so on, and they totally get it.” In fact, at the time of this interview, she was doing “snow self-portraits” with her students, which are not traditional portraiture, but are intended to give a “taste of winter” . . . and sure are joyfully cute!

As surprising as it may sound, given the ease with which she has acclimated to her position, elementary was not her original choice of age grouping to teach. In fact, her plan had always been to become a high school art teacher doing portfolio development or work in the education department of a museum. Almost from the moment she encountered the younger kids at The Painting Workshop, however, she realized how fun it was to teach and work with them. She now feels perfectly at home in this division, and she is a born teacher. “When I was a senior during my art history study, I worked as a teaching assistant, and I loved it. Even though I was extremely shy and quiet, I had no problem in the classroom. I love teaching, and it has helped me, too,” she said.

Upcoming art-related events to look out for include the stage sets Ms. Willis will design and create for the 2016 TNCS Spring Concert as well as the first-ever TNCS Art Show to be held sometime in April that she will (democratically) curate from her students’ work. “The kids are super pumped about it!” she said, winningly betraying her own enthusiasm for this very exciting endeavor.

Other than observing a few classroom rules, her students have no other cares but to have fun and make art. “I don’t care if they can’t draw a nose,” she explained. “But I look for three things from them: craftsmanship, following directions, and participation.” This adds up to respect—respect for the pursuit, the materials, and the classroom. Nevertheless, she also believes that, in some ways, art gives kids a break, a chance to switch off certain parts of their brains and tap into others.

“Art shows us where we all came from, and where we are heading,” she finished. With this  profound insight, she seems to say that art is just about everything where humanity is concerned.

 

The Painting Workshop at TNCS: Kids Paint the Town!

Summer sessions at The New Century School continue with an exciting block of camps hosted by The Painting Workshop! The first week of this summer-long workshop was called “The Art of Charm City.” Artist-campers explored questions like, “What is a neighborhood? A town? Baltimore? They got better acquainted with Baltimore symbols such as the Domino Sugar sign and Chesapeake Bay crabs through painting, drawing, crafts, and sculpture. They also celebrated our local artists—from Paul Darmafall (a.k.a., the Baltimore Glass Man) to Grace Hartigan. (Scroll below for upcoming themes and to register.)

Charming Art

Baltimore! Inspired by the Inner Harbor

Baltimore! Inspired by the Inner Harbor

Led by two camp instructors from The Painting Workshop, Rachel Stein and Elisabeth Willis, kids made paintings inspired by all things Baltimore—the harbor, rowhouses, local food, etc. Each day they worked on one painting as well as had lots of free-drawing time and afternoon crafts. Their culminating project for the week was self-portraits . . . on actual canvas!

Rachel Stein, from The Painting Workshop

Rachel Stein, from The Painting Workshop

“Their self-portraits look great,” said Ms. Stein “It’s so exciting to see them pick up the techniques so easily.” Instructors demonstrated how to make eyes, noses, and lips and how to manage proportions. “But overall we let them do it how they want,” said Ms. Stein. This space to express themselves is part of Ms. Stein’s philosophy of instruction. An undergrad at Towson University, she studies art and psychology. “I like watching them expressing themselves, getting out what happened that day, their emotions. That’s how I see it—as a way to arrive at camp and not worry about anything else except just making art.”

The artist-campers really got the message. They experimented with colors, patterns, and actual brush techniques to their hearts’ content. They also “expressed” themselves in other ways—a table of several girls quietly sang “Let It Go” as they worked on their self-portraits (perhaps more than one envisioning herself triumphing over obstacles just like the beleaguered Princess Elsa). Meanwhile a table of boys sang “We Will Rock You” and did an admirable job of keeping even the drumbeats hushed so as not to disturb anyone else.

Despite all the “self-expression,” going on, the atmosphere was calm and productive. Spills were handled without fuss, and the kids were always reminded to keep working until they finished. “I want to work with kids and art in the future. I’m thinking about becoming a teacher,” said Ms. Stein. She has been with The Painting Workshop for 3 years.

Elisabeth Willis, from The Painting Workshop

Elisabeth Willis, from The Painting Workshop

Ms. Willis brings an impressive amount of experience to her role as well. She has both a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Art History and a Masters in Art and Teaching from Maryland Institute College of Arts (MICA). She freelanced after graduating in 2011 to spend time on her art but would like to become a high school art teacher or work in the education department of a museum. She has been with The Painting Workshop for the last 3 months.

Typical Day

The day starts out with free draw (and each child got a folder to collect their drawings to bring home at week’s end). About midmorning when everyone has gotten the wiggles (and the squiggles) out, they move on to the main project of the day. For the self-portrait day, Ms. Stein and Ms. Willis gave step-by-step instructions involving sketching out the face with a pencil and then going back over it with a Sharpie to make the lines clear. After that, each child got a mixing plate with blobs of primary colors and went to work.

Hard at work, painting away

Hard at work, painting away

While the artists work, instructors move through the classroom, responding to questions and comments. “What do yellow and orange make? What about blue and pink and white?” asked one boy. “How about you and try it out?” replied Ms. Stein, encouragingly. “I know three ways to make purple!” he came back with. “Red into blue . . . blue into—well, actually I only know how to do it two ways—pink.”

“I figured out the category,” said another student, excitedly! “It’s all about Baltimore—the crabs, the harbor, everything!” “That’s right; you figured out the puzzle; you added it all up,” replied Ms. Stein. “Can I make my skin whatever color I want? Like brown?” “Of course!”

A finished portrait

A finished portrait

Once they finished their portraits, they were free to draw or read books until lunch. “At TNCS they get to leave the classroom to eat somewhere else, and they get to play on the playground. I like that,” said Ms. Stein, who is normally at the Mt. Washington Painting Workshop location. “It’s really fun [at TNCS]!” she said. “The kids here are really intelligent and have great vocabularies. One boy was painting an animal and told me ‘this animal is aggressive toward these other animals’, for example.”

Crabs in their habitat

Crabs in their habitat

For their afternoon activity, the artist-campers were going to make habitats for the crabs they had sculpted earlier in the week. Those are some lucky crabs!

Schedule

“Creativity! Art Around the World Camp” begins 7/14 and continues through 7/18. Artist-campers will create their own passports and focus on the indigenous art of each country they visit, such as aboriginal paintings in Australia, pottery in Greece, rice paper and pagoda prints in Japan, craft papier-mâché maracas in Spain, and beautiful landscape paintings in France.

7/21–7/25: Penguins, Whales, and Surf: Oceans and Seas Camp

Water covers more than two-thirds of our planet. Within it, we find amphibious life of all description, and fauna and flora that exist only in the mysterious world of the sea. This camp celebrates the waters of planet Earth–through painting, drawings, sculpture, and of course the use of water in art projects! The geology of the ocean, the uses of the ocean, the wonder of the sea–it’s a watery week of imaginative fun!

7/28–8/1: Birds, Butterflies, Wind, and Sky: Art and Nature Camp

The outside world comes alive in this camp where we are inspired by nature. From leaf rubbings and clay pressings, to plein-air painting, and sponge paintings of trees, we celebrate nature through our art!

8/4–8/8: Dragons and Wild Things Camp

Who doesn’t love dragons? We will look to the art of Asia for inspiration, as well as Dragons in medieval times, and then closer to home with Maurice Sendak and his book, Where the Wild Things Are. Projects will include sculpture, puppets, jewelry, paintings, and more.

8/11–8/15: Hear the Sounds of Art! Art and Music Camp

Can you listen to the sounds of art? What is the overlap between the artistic expressions of music and visual art? Let’s find out in this multi-faceted camp experience.

We will create our own instruments, explore how sound and music affects our art, and have fun!

Would you like to register your child(ren)? Please go here.

See What’s Jumping at The Lingo Leap!

LEAP! (They spell "leap"!)

LEAP! (They spell “leap”!)

Since The Lingo Leap‘s 2012 launch, the more-than-just-a-kiddie gym has made some significant changes and refinements. Now under the supervision of The New Century School‘s Sharon DaCosta, TLL is becoming the go-to studio for the 2- to 10-year-old set. TLL is unique in integrating movement with learning as well as learning about movement. Neuronal synapses fire more readily to juice up the brain when the rest of the body is also active. This is one reason why treadmill desks are catching on for adults—they get to move around instead of being sedentary at work and reap all of the exercise-associated benefits, but they also find that they think better and are more productive. The mind–body connection isn’t just for yogis and yoginis. (For more on the related science, check out an older post on TLL: Exercising that Mind–Body Connection.)

The Lingo Leap coordinator, Sharon DaCosta

The Lingo Leap coordinator, Sharon DaCosta

Says Ms. DaCosta, “Our goal is to create classes that no other aftercare or other facility offers. So, we do things like language immersion movement classes to expose kids to another language.” Not all classes are immersion or language related, however. Drama, Ballet, Hip-hop, Together with Tots, and Team-building classes, for example, have also attracted a solid following. The roster remains flexible; classes are offered based on market demands. Specialty classes like French Yoga, which isn’t currently on the schedule, might return if the interest is there. Ms. DaCosta conducts surveys and does other marketing outreach to find out just what parents want to see available.

Aftercare Director (TNCS) and Events Manager (TLL), Emily Feinberg.

Aftercare Director (TNCS) and Events Manager (TLL), Emily Feinberg.

Finding the right target market is one of her primary means to keep TLL thriving. “Getting the word out there,”  says Ms. DaCosta, whose background is in marketing, “is extremely important. We have such fantastic offerings, but many community parents still aren’t aware.” Currently, TLL draws heavily from the TNCS aftercare student body, but Ms. DaCosta sees TLL as having a much broader reach and providing a much-needed service to the larger Baltimore community. Working in collaboration with Emily Feinberg, TNCS Aftercare Director and TLL Events Manager, the two have developed a very special set of services. “There’s a lot of overlap between our roles,” says Ms. Feinberg, “but basically I try to integrate TNCS’s aftercare program with TLL to give parents lots of intriguing aftercare options.” In other words, students can spend some of their after-school hours in one of TLL’s specialty classes. TNCS and TLL are closely affiliated but function as separate entities.

Finding great instructors is another one of Ms. DaCosta’s tasks in her official capacity as Activity Coordinator. She searches extensively to find just the right fit, and the instructors she has brought on board have elevated the classes to new levels of excitement and energy. Drama instructor Rebecca Kenton is one, and is new to TLL this year. She is an experienced drama teacher committed to learning, creativity, and curiosity. “I think of my teaching career as an adventure,” she says. “Over the past 16 years, I have taught Drama to children ranging in age from 5–18 with the Pumpkin Theatre, Drama Learning Center, The Painting Workshop, and Friends School of Baltimore.” TLL is thrilled to welcome someone with such chops! Young performers in her class will develop their confidence and concentration through a range of improvisational and story-telling exercises. “I’m looking forward to discovering drama with the tiny (yet tenacious) thespians of [TLL] and meeting all of you,” she says. Her Discovering Drama class, which began January 31st and meets at 3:30 for 2- and 3-year-olds and at 4:15 for 4- to 6-year-olds, will conclude with an informal showcase on Friday, April 4th.

Cuban native Danay Rodriguez is another high-caliber instructor, already familiar to TLL and about to assume expanded duties overlapping with TNCS. She teaches the very popular Together with Tots class on Saturday mornings and is now additionally going to be in charge of the overall Spanish Creative Movement program. A one-time Clinical Psychologist and counselor as well as a Developmental Psychology teacher at The University of Havana, Señorita Rodriquez will lead the 2- and 3-year-old and the 4- to 6-year-old groups in this immersion-style introduction to movement class.

Balancing and walking on the beam hones coordination.

Balancing and walking on the beam hones coordination.

Look---I made a car that actually moves!

Look—I made a car that actually moves!

The current full schedule and class description can be found on TLL’s website. But exciting extracurricular movement classes aren’t all that TLL has to offer. During the schoolday, it functions as TNCS’s gymnasium and boasts such features as authentic Gerstung equipment, which “[encourages] children to use their own innate curiosity to stimulate movement,” and the Imagination Playground, a “play system that encourages unstructured, child-directed ‘free play.’” (Read more about the super-awesome Imagination Playground here.) Ms. DaCosta says that despite recent changes, TLL has stayed true to its original mission of integrating movement and learning and that this philosophy is something that everyone (TLL and TNCS staff) has a hand in implementing. “Mr. Gerstung himself actually came to TLL and trained all of us in August on how to use his specially designed equipment,” she says. “We know the purpose of each piece of equipment and what goals we can accomplish with each one.” Pre-primary and primary students have gym classes with their regular-class assistant teachers, who instruct them in Spanish or Mandarin. Elementary students have a more targeted physical education class taught by kids’ strength and agility trainer Emily Socolinsky.

TLL is also fast becoming the place to throw a kid’s birthday party—just ask your kids. Events Manager Emily Feinberg is available to help you plan your event and clearly enjoys her job. She knows kids’ parties! Catering is available, as needed, as well as decorations, balloons, face painting—you name it. Some perks come with your party package, like the ever-popular Moon Bounce; others are priced accordingly. The best thing about hosting a party at TLL from a parent’s perspective (besides, of course, extremely happy kids), is that your party is tailored exactly to your needs. If you want to handle all the details, you may. If you prefer to let TLL do the work, so be it. Or, you can opt to take on what aspects you want and let TLL manage the others. It’s a very civilized form of events planning!

Date Nights at TLL are another offering that have really caught on and are all-around brilliant. Drop the kids off at TLL at 5:30 pm (or later) and have a night out on the town, utterly guilt-free! Parents get some probably much-needed “we time,” while the kids are having an equally great time. They get to socialize with other kids, participate in group games, eat a nutritious dinner, and put the long schoolweek behind them in a melée of play. It’s the kids’ version of TGIF! New this year, hours are extended to 9 pm, to give parents more choices for their evening out. Date Nights occur on a standing schedule, monthly, every third Friday. Sign up in advance here!

Camps are another great service TLL provides. Whether it’s an extended school vacation that parents need coverage for, or a single school holiday, TLL offers an enriching, lively experience for kids. It’s the perfect balance—kids get a break from school, but they don’t have to take a break from movement and learning! Sign up for Spring Break camp here.

Finally, Ms. DaCosta is working with Sanctuary Bodyworks to develop parallel programs in which parents can go work out at the boutique studio upstairs from TLL, while kids are attending movement classes downstairs. The two facilities have offered Salsa Nights so far, for adults (not necessarily couples nor even pairs) to dance (or learn to) and enjoy hors d’oeuvres and wine (olé!), while the kids are happily occupied in their own Friday night fun. Ms. DaCosta says she goes to extreme lengths to get the word out about such events and hopes for increased participation. “I want parents to know how much I want to please everybody. I sit here and think and think and think,” she says, “about how to make TLL the best place to bring their kids.”

Her hard work is bearing fruit; TLL is exciting, engaging, and fun! So take the leap—find out for yourself all that this special kids’ activity realm has to offer!