Learning is in even when school’s out

Day camps combine art, science teaching

Evolution Revolution workshop instructor Angie Bickman shows how to cut out a paper puzzle Nov. 8, 2012, as students, from left, Xiang Zhang, Ben Skillman, Carson Marsh and Elliott Skillman watch the process.

A young girl looks over her puzzle Nov. 8, 2012, during Art Space Camp at Lawrence Arts Center. Art Space Camp takes place on no-school days, allowing children to continue learning and parents to forego a baby sitter. Enrollment is open for spring classes.

In a sunny studio on the second floor of the Lawrence Arts Center, a dozen or so kids are huddled around two tables, drawing, cutting, taping and tracing.

Lawrence cut-paper artist Angie Pickman leads students through making their own tessellations, which they will soon finish by drawing whatever they’re inspired to draw inside the repeated forms.

“I’m making a lion,” 5-year-old Quentin Mitchell announces, using markers to outline a green body, then pink arms. “Look at my lion!”

Whether they realize it or not, the children at the arts center’s Art Space Camp are using art to learn science skills — even though school’s out for the day.

The camps, offered on no-school days such as those reserved for parent-teacher conferences or teacher planning, aim to give parents who work during the day an educational, purposeful and fun alternative to taking the day off or trying to get a baby sitter, said the arts center’s curator of education, Laurie McLane-Higginson.

McLane-Higginson said art and science are natural pairings.

For each camp day, the arts center chooses a curriculum that brings together a key element of art and a science concept. She said activities aim to foster skills kids need, such as critical thinking, problem-solving and innovation.

“Of course, kids learn better when they’re not only learning visually but kinetically,” McLane-Higginson said. “And sometimes if it didn’t make sense seeing it on paper, it’s going to make sense if you’re doing it with your body.”

McLane-Higginson said the integrated science and art curriculum meets national art education and science standards.

The recent session with the tessellations was titled “Evolution Revolution.” Art principles were symmetry and pattern; the science concepts were biology, metamorphosis and mathematics.

The goal was to have students put the concepts of symmetry and pattern to use creating handmade animation devices such as zoetropes and flip-books, and to learn about art-based mathematical patterns and designs such as M.C. Escher’s tessellation drawings.

This fall’s five Art Space Camp days, including “Evolution Revolution,” included visits to the Kansas University Natural History Museum.

“We got to see lots of things, like dinosaur bones, and we studied things like camouflage,” said Two Roads O’Leary, 6, who was making tessellations across the table from Quentin.

Two Roads said she especially liked drawing and that, at least in her opinion, the Art Space Camps were more fun than regular school.

Enrollment is now open for spring sessions, the first of which is, “Mission Impossible: Valentine Secret Codes and Cards.”

In that session, kids will employ the art concepts of pattern and variation to help learn mathematical sequences. Activities will include printmaking, dance and choreography.

Jenny Skillman enrolled her sons, 5-year-old Elliot and 7-year-old Ben, in all the Art Space Camps this fall.

“If you can’t take a vacation day every time there’s a no-school day, you have to find an alternative,” said Skillman, who, along with her husband, works full time.

Skillman said she liked how the Art Space Camps fostered her sons’ artistic abilities but provided more structure than a traditional art class alone.

“They are both really creative little guys,” she said. “They love art, they love to draw. I like that the classes at the arts center incorporate science and math, and other things, into the creative curriculum.”