Lessons from Fairy Camp

I pretty much have the best job ever. Don’t believe me? Last week, I sprayed my hair purple and wore glittery wings to work and both actions were utterly appropriate.

I’m the Marketing and Development Director for a community arts organization and typically, I spend my days crafting cheerful emails, writing grant proposals, curating our social media presence, and putting together sponsorship packages (all activities that I enjoy immensely). But as we approached summer camp season, the staff agreed to divvy up the teaching load, with each of us leading a camp or two and hiring contract instructors for the rest so we could cover the dizzying ten-week schedule without losing our ever-loving minds.

I immediately called dibs on Fairy Art Camp. Obviously. I believe deeply in many things, but high on the list are rainbows, sparkles, and magical beings.

Never having taught a week-long camp before, I looked to the Source of All Creative Knowledge for inspiration. Pinterest did not disappoint. I pinned and saved and proto-typed for weeks (okay, months) leading up to the big week.

And it was a BIG week. We welcomed twenty young artists to camp and spent each day exploring the whimsical world of the fairies. We made wind chimes and river rock mosaics. We painted and glued and doodled. We used copious amounts of beads, sequins, popsicle sticks, clothespins, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes.

I learned a few things along the way and feel compelled to share this wisdom with you, in case you ever find yourself spending the week with twenty five-year-olds.

Lesson 1: Glitter never stays put. Here’s the thing about glitter: it’s sneaky. You think you’ve adhered it to one surface, but then it shows up on another surface. Or rather, on every other surface. The Arts Center actually banned glitter several years ago for this very reason. But fairies require glitter – it’s a law, I believe – and so I cautiously applied spray glitter to the covers of our fairy journals, giving them a delightful sparkle. Then every time I touched them, I became delightfully sparkly, too. Bonus!

Lesson 2: “Washable” is a relative term. We have a variety of paints at the Arts Center, some of which claim to be washable. Despite these optimistic labels, the tips of my fingers were magenta for days after I painted a bunch of clothespins purple so as to transform them into butterfly clips for snack bags. Which leads me to….

Lesson 3: Always bring more snacks. Small children are a lot like locusts. Their appetite for goldfish crackers, apple slices, and cheese cubes is pretty much endless. When you run out, they cry. Then they try to steal each other’s snacks. Which leads to more crying. However many snacks you think you need, bring more.

Lesson 4: When in doubt, blow bubbles. The highlight of the week for many of my campers wasn’t even an art project. It was a ‘fairy picnic’ on the lawn of a friend’s house a couple blocks from the Arts Center. We spread out blankets, ate watermelon, and distributed bubble wands to every eager fairy. Watching kids play with bubbles is straight-up magical. They jump and run and laugh and exude pure joy.

Lesson 5: Teachers are divine beings and we should all worship them as such. I had a blast at Fairy Camp. The kids were sweet, the projects were fun…and I was so tired by Friday that I could hardly move. I actively taught for a grand total of fifteen hours during the week and I was absolutely exhausted. My respect for the good people of the world who spend their lives educating young children was already pretty high but it grew exponentially that week.

So go hug a teacher and then buy a big container of glitter. You never know when it might come in handy.

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