A bug's life inspires children's art

Program: A summer camp class uses insects to educate youngsters.

Education Beat

News from Howard County schools and colleges

August 07, 2005|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Some artists are inspired by bowls of fruit, others by misty landscapes. But the elementary-aged entomologists in a two-week camp at the Howard County Center for the Arts were inspired by bugs.

The camp, for kids 6 to 8 years old, used bugs as a focal point for a range of projects. The 20 pupils made papier-mache bugs, watercolor paintings of bugs, tissue-paper sculptures of bugs and even "bug rugs" of woven strips of paper.

The class wrapped up with a show of the work created by the young artists.

Debra Rogers, an art teacher during the school year at Cromwell Valley Elementary Magnet School in Baltimore County, created and taught the class. She got the idea last year, she said, "When I saw the cicadas come out, and I saw the kids' reaction to bugs."

She was also hoping the program would be popular with boys. Last year, she taught a summer camp at the center based on the medieval era.

"It was really good because I got just as many boys as girls," she said. But the bug class drew an overwhelmingly female crowd -- 15 girls and five boys.

The camp, called "Let's Get Buggy," wrapped up Friday, one of about 30 two-week programs offered at the center for youngsters ages 4 to 14.

Howard County Center for the Arts, in Ellicott City, is open year-round for art exhibits, theater and classes; the summer programs range from classes on the art of Eric Carle to programs on drawing the human figure (clothed, of course).

Instructors are encouraged to come up with new programs each year, Rogers said, so students can return for different experiences summer after summer.

Before class started, she went to a local library and cleaned out a shelf of bug-related books, she said. In the classroom are books on bug-related poetry, a video of A Bug's Life and several books on bug facts. She also wore a bug pin on her shirt.

Rogers said she is amazed at how much the kids already know about bugs. "Some of them are real experts," she said.

For example, a little girl knew that a lightning bug is really a kind of beetle -- something Rogers did not know until she read it. Some of the art projects focus on realistic depictions of bugs, while others are more fanciful.

On Wednesday, Rogers stood in front of the zigzag rows of desks and showed the pupils how to make their bug rugs. She held a folded sheet of paper in front of her and slowly cut slots into it, explaining what she was doing as she went.

"Once your bug picture is cut up, you're ready to make your bug rugs," she said.

She picked up a strip of construction paper and showed how to weave it through the slots. Then the kids got to work as Rogers and her two assistants, her daughter, Sarah, and Jessica Helmbold, walked around, helping when necessary but making sure the kids did the work themselves.

"It's great working with little kids," said Helmbold, who is working at the center. "They have such imaginations and personalities."

Though boys were in the minority, they were hard at work weaving the strips of paper through slots they had cut.

"I like bugs, and I like art," said James Cooper, 8, who is going into fourth grade and is homeschooled. He showed off his watercolor, which depicted a bee, two caterpillars and a butterfly.

"I like drawing, and I think nature's interesting," said Kevin Cincotta, 7, who is going into second grade at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School. His painting featured an ant, a caterpillar, a bee and a butterfly. Theron Walsh, 6, a first-grader at Worthington, said he likes science and "that's why I like bugs."

All three boys agreed that the class has inspired them to look more closely at the bugs in their own backyards.

Johanna Spittel, 7, a rising second-grader at Triadelphia Ridge, said she does not like bugs, "but I do like cats and horses." She took the class because "my mom saw all the cool art I've been doing so she decided I should take an art class."

Seven-year-old Anna Dolce, going into second grade at Hollifield Station, said she does not usually collect bugs, but said, "I go to my friend's house a lot for the Fourth of July and birthday parties, and we catch fireflies."

And Avery Orvechowski, 5, who will be a kindergartener at Rockburn Elementary, had a simple reason for taking the class. "I just like doing arts and crafts," she said.

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