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Leslie on Summer Camp

February 10, 2013

It’s 9:00am. Students are lining up in the gallery to head upstairs to morning circle. They’re about to play teambuilding games, learn fun facts about the world and congratulate their classmates on kind acts from the day before as we watch their kindness chain grow. They are moments away from starting their camp day at CHAW! Morning Circle is one of the only times during the day when all our campers, counselors, summer staff and teaching artists can be found in one room, greeting the day together as a community, learning good citizenship and starting fresh before venturing off into the artistic worlds of another culture.
Visual arts, music and movement, traditional games, sports and hobbies from all around the world are a taste of the classes campers rotate through in the morning. Their energy is contagious as counselors and teachers use it as a substitute for caffeine. This year we’ll take a trip into our own backyard, exploring the beauties of the wild and mysterious American West. There’s also so much to learn about the Italian painters and visionaries of the renaissance. Who doesn’t love Pizza, pesto and saying “Prego”!
Speaking of pizza, after a leisurely lunch our appetites keep building during recreation camp. Trips to the pool and visits to local parks and museums will give campers a new look at what our wonderful city has to offer. It’s during these trips that campers really see the diversity around us, comparing what they learned about the vibrancy of India to the intricate details of D.C. architecture and history.
We return to CHAW later in the afternoon, unwilling to admit we’re tired and not wanting to go home yet. Parents arrive and campers begin trickling out of the building. At this moment I always see so many parents trying to listen attentively to their child as they attempt to tell them about the watercolors they made, show them a move or two from dance class, explode with joy over winning the giant rocks, paper, scissors game at the pool. Scooping up forgotten water bottles and card decks of Pirate Flux and Pit, I look forward to doing it all again tomorrow.
I wasn’t exposed to the arts until later in my life. As a kid, my experience didn’t go beyond a coloring book with set lines and preconceived ideas of what was possible. Summer Camp at CHAW gives us all a second chance to discover the worlds of innovation, and endless possibility. The effects of what campers learn from their teaching artists, the confidence they gain and the power of their art to create change and build community will have a lasting impression on their lives. They have taught me to see the beauty in all things and have shown me that we are all artists and have a place in our community.
Leslie Mansour, CHAW Youth Education Coordinator