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Che Whaite

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Bahamas

Week of July 5

This week was the second week of the ChildrensVoices242 Summer Arts Camp based in Nassau, Bahamas and organized by art teacher Carla Campbell. For the first month of the internship, we’ve been preparing the summer camp over Zoom, meeting to decide which text to use with the teenagers, aged 14-17. These teenagers are often labelled “at-risk” or have clinically diagnosed learning disorders which in, the normal Bahamian school system, puts them at a disadvantage. Ms Campbell integrated Pre-Texts into her lesson plans and found that the methodology has a positive effect on such kids’ ability to learn. Therefore, each day of activities are designed to use Pre-Texts in a different way.

She decided to use “The Celestine Prophecy,” by James Redfield, a text that guides the reader to harnessing the importance of meaningful coincidences and personal history in how they live their lives. This text influences all the art they create over the four weeks of the camp. First, the teenagers made vision boards as a tangent to a selection of the text focused on trusting their intuitions. Carla has designed different art-based activities – this week’s focus was starting to paint and an artist talk from Dwight Ferguson, Bahamian sculptor. These art pieces will be shown on a COVID-restricted exhibition in the art space on Saturday 24th July. On Wednesday, I invited them to make storyboards about their lives as a tangent to a part of the text focused on personal histories. Some of them will make mini-documentaries conveying these personal stories. My work is also focused on documentation of the different workshops to seek investor support for another summer camp or program next year. To do so, we are having focused confessional question sessions at the end of each week. 
 

Week of July 12

This third week of the internship, the campers moved on to papier maché faces, again inspired by the text, but this time to show how they want to represent themselves artistically. One camper is painting on horns to show their dark sides, one is inspired by Maya Angelou’s “Why the caged bird sings,” and others are emulating stone textures. Inspired by how the text values meaningful coincidences, they are also doing figure drawing — once lines are redefined as meaningful coincidences, figure drawing measurements are understood as the same basic mathematical measurements that are seen in most human figures and portraiture. I have continued with the documentary film workshop to voiceovers that again use the text as a jump-off point for writing. Carla makes sure that the campers have time to set their own breaks and often they continue without taking them, very engrossed in their activities. We are continuing the documentation of the workshops with questions focusing on how their relationship to creativity and reading is changing, and what they more appreciate about themselves, as a result of the camp’s different activities. Carla says that they are very inspired and she is gaining more interest from people in the Bahamian art community who come by and see their work, especially art teachers who are very interested in the pedagogy. 

Week of July 19

This is the last week of the Children’s Voices summer camp and the teenagers have been working on their final pieces in preparation of a virtual exhibition scheduled for july 31st. Each camper has three or four pieces that they’ve made for the exhibition inspired by their readings of the celestine prophecy, with a few more that they took home. the focus this week with the text was on defining and writing their artist statements which led to very interesting discussions. The children expected to be told they needed to fully explain their work but once seeing videos of artists talking about their process and returning the text brought out their own opinions, they realized they could just how they see the world rather than give a ‘right’ answer. Some of the least talkative children at the start of the program were most active in this discussion. This also got the campers writing, which some of them were very reluctant to do at first. Overall the key insights of the text have embedded in both their art pieces, and in how they relate to their artwork. Carla and I discussed that we wanted a closer focus on different parts of the text but the teenagers’ seemed to benefit most from talking about what they already read in relation to the artwork they were making. From hearing how students speak about their artworks’ characters in the third person, even when the pieces were more abstract and symbolic in form, they fictionalized from personal narratives which seemed to process their emotions whilst distancing them from their own experiences. 

Carla and I have also been working on the exit survey questionnaire and a parent survey questionnaire to send out next week. The arts education research resource had a good example of what do do in the absence of a control group: https://www.artsedsearch.org/study/using-multi-genre-arts-programming-to-support-creative-engagement-and-social-and-emotional-learning-in-middle-school-students-with-autism/

However, for the next iteration of Children’s Voices programs, there may be a need to establish a control group. Carla has mentioned that the camp’s host, Project I.C.E., would like her to continue with the program either as an afterschool club or a Saturday workshop and this may be a good opportunity for a longitudinal study. She has connected with a community psychologist who is interested in Children’s Voices work and will see how that goes.