R&D: How Summer Camps Fuel My Teaching
In late 2012 I had to leave my teaching job in Florida immediately to escape an abusive marriage.
I moved in with family, but I couldn't take a full-time job due to legalities surrounding the divorce.
I started working PT at several homeschool co-ops and decided to use the time to experiment with the "good parts" version of Beowulf by running a small summer camp where teens could do chain maille, make torcs, create metal
cuffs etched with Old Norse designs, and read the epic with an eye to costume and armor rather than the traditional approaches I normally taught.
During this time, I also worked with a local theatre (The Warehouse Theatre) and its thriving teaching artist program.
We went in teams to elementary, middle, and high schools to teach Shakespeare through acting techniques.
That program changed how I taught--I learned how to integrate the arts holistically and actively.
I started to add those theatre techniques into the Beowulf camp to introduce and teach the main parts of the epic even if the teens hadn't read it.
I loved doing the program, but I needed a captive audience to see if I could do similar teaching daily in a public school setting.
Why? Well, when we went into schools, students would be so excited and ask why they couldn't do this more often. I felt bad for the teachers, knowing they were putting their hearts and souls into their work only to have the students gravitate toward the acting method.
In June 2017, a friend of mine called me up to work at a local charter with an experimental bent and offered me a job (health insurance!!!).
I took it and began introducing the theatre ideas into the freshmen class (Romeo and Juliet forever!). The interest worked but needed improvement.
That began the symbiotic relationship between the camps and work: I practiced ideas in camps, classes, and workshop then expanded them to fit the daily class schedule and cover the standards.
Eventually, stage combat enhanced the theatre then Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) enhanced the stage combat followed by leather working, polymer clay brooches, and more.
Most of these started in the Beowulf Camp and wormed their way into English IV usually with decent success (and lots of process papers!).
All teachers need time to rest, but they need time to experiment. Summer camps have become my way to enhance the work I do in the classroom.