Hello! It's Jesse writing. Much has happened since we’ve last written. While we can’t cover everything, here are some snapshots from the summer so far.
In an art workshop with the oldest students during our 5th week of camp, students interviewed each other. What are the 5 words you would use to describe yourself? “Funny.” “Nice.” “Sometimes sad.” If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? Students said, “end the wars,” “make America Africa.” “Make everyone speak the same language.” What do you want to be when you grow up? “Actress,” “Singer,” “Teacher” “Teacher” “Teacher” “Scientist.” The students traced each other’s bodies on large white paper, filling their bodies with the interview responses. Students giggled when seeing their wobbly outlines before taping them haphazardly on the walls.
In literacy class, students learned about Mrs. Frizzle and “nature” for the nature theme. They learned about Mrs. Frizzle and the human body. In a read-aloud, the students could hardly contain their excitement. “The school bus is trapped inside the boy’s body!” They shout, pointing to the pictures of the blood vessels, grinning as the bus travels through the heart and lungs.
During the third week of camp, the oldest campers visited the RISD museum. In the first moments, there was initial chaos. Young students wandered too close to paintings and statues. But in just minutes, our bodies were under control. Each counselor started in a different room and toured the museum with his/her class. Walking through the museum with the campers was inspiring. Alice, a rising third grader, read each of the plaques out loud despite the challenging words. “You know why I read these?” she asked, grinning. “Cause it makes it more interesting.” Wise words, Alice, wise words. Two other campers, when looking at statues, shouted, “Vishnu, that’s my God, that’s my God.” The campers grinned: their God was represented at the museum for us to see.
At our very first morning meeting weeks ago, we discussed the importance of a safe space for all members of the BRYTE Camp community. Throughout the summer, we’ve realized the importance of reiterating these rules. How do we remind students about what it means to be safe? We go over the rules again: we keep our hands to ourselves and respect each others’ bodies and space. We navigate bullying incidents in the lunchroom and aim to support the students who are picked on the most while creating a culture in which bullying is not tolerated by the campers. During our fourth week, each camper participated in an anti-bullying workshop that counselors created in order to address bullying concerns. The oldest group discussed what bullying was. Then they acted different scenarios out. Students wrestled with real questions—why is a student who speaks no english made fun of in the classroom? What does it mean to be an ally? What is a bystander? The counselors read books about bullying out loud to the youngest campers, flipping through glossy colored pages. In another room, older students participated in a “brag bag” activity in which each camper anonymously wrote a good thing about every other camper in the room. Students wrote sentences ranging from, “I like your smile” to “you are nice” to “I like your shirt.” The following day, Francois pulled me aside on the bus. “I told those kids to stop bullying,” he said. Managing bullying is complicated: we know that reading books about kindness and acting out scenarios will not in itself end bullying. It is, however, a first step to building a camp community of mutual respect and safety.
Stay tuned for more snapshots to come.