Learning and fun meld for kids in Summer Spotlight camps

Mini Spotlighters and ComiCamp both reached capacity and hosted nearly 50 students.

Mini Spotlighters and ComiCamp both reached capacity and hosted nearly 50 students.

Troy University’s Department of Theatre and Dance hosted nearly 50 kids from June 27-July 1 for the first round of Summer Spotlight camps designed to introduce children and teens to all aspects of the world of the fine arts. 

The Creative Drama “Mini Spotlighters” half-day camp for ages 4-7 immersed kids in a Barnyard Bash where they learned how crops grow, how farm equipment works, how food gets from the fields to the grocery store and more.

“They’ve been learning about all of this in such a fun way that they don’t realize they’re learning,” said Jenny Meadows, coordinator and theatre education lecturer. “I heard so many of the children say, ‘We’re going to fun school!’ We use standards-based instruction, but I tell my students to deliver all that wonderful curriculum in the most fun way possible.”

Kids at the Mini Spotlighters camp shell peas.
Mini Spotlighters competed to see who could shell the most peas on the last day of camp.

Throughout the week, the kids planted and watered imaginary seeds, pulled construction paper “weeds,” cooperated to build a barn, harvested crops—a special type of popcorn with candy mixed in—and even shucked corn and shelled peas. 

Aside from the hands-on learning, the kids were able to let loose and use their imagination in what Meadows called “structured play.”

“This whole camp is steeped in the philosophies of creative drama and the benefits that it gives,” she said. “Creative drama is focused on the process, not the product. It’s a structured story, but the gaps are filled in with their own imagination. It’s so rewarding for them because everyone’s ideas are included.”

The story follows two farm animals gathering the rest of their animal friends to surprise the farmer for her birthday. But, they have to hide for the surprise before the rooster crows and wakes the farmer up.

Emory, 7, said her favorite part of camp was learning their dance to Cotton-Eyed Joe, the “freeze dance” and learning new things.

“The biggest lesson I learned is to be kind to everyone,” she said.

A joint effort with the Department of Art and Design, ComiCamp is a day camp that gives opportunities for creative children to make their own characters, stories and illustrations.

Student volunteer Naimah Hakeem, a junior art education major from Tuskeegee, Ala., said the week was both exciting and rewarding.

A student volunteer at ComiCamp watches a student practice drawing.
Art and Design students helped ComiCamp participants find their art style.

“Teaching the kids different elements and different skills so they can create their own comic was really exciting, and they loved it,” she said. “We’re just here to help guide them when they need help.”

At the end of the week, children come away with a comic book created all on their own—or with a little help from their friends.

“They were really excited to show off their art skills, but something that was really cool to us volunteers is something they did without us saying anything,” Hakeem said. “They started collaborating with each other. If they noticed someone had a better time doing the drawing but they really liked to write the stories, they would team up.”

Karmen Wilson, 12, attended ComiCamp to explore her new interest in art but mostly wanted to write stories. She partnered with her new friend Angel to have her comic book illustrated.

Their book was about two girls whose high school graduation gets canceled when the Zands,  strange, monster-like aliens from the moon, invade.

Parents and guardians are invited to a showcase at the end of camp to see what their children created.

“I was most excited for my mom to see it,” Wilson said. “I show her every time I write a story, but when I do stuff like this and she gets to see my whole work, I really like that.”

Both camps hit attendance capacity.

Summer Spotlight has been an annual event on the Troy Campus for over 10 years. Also offered over the month of July are a Creative Drama Camp, a series of intensives for high school and college students and a new teacher’s intensive.

For more information, click here.