Last week girls a gaggle of 8-11 year old girls descended on our property for our annual Summer Spark Day Camp.
I learned as much – or more – about Spark than the kids. Not by leading, but by following.
The intention is to prepare preteen girls for the social-emotional challenges that can pop up like scary clowns in early adolescence. For example: Looking in the mirror, not liking what we see. Saying rotten things to ourselves. Trying to get approval from folks who may never give it. Watching our friendships mysteriously go “poof.”
These are real topics that girls in my teen circles talk about. If we can’t spare them the hardships of the road, can we give them tools to negotiate the terrain? Can we guide them to their core, so they won’t forget how sweet, beautiful and powerful they are?
My copilot Katherine Wieseman and I devised a sequence of themes, activities and movement games to connect the girls to their inner value (Spark) and to each other. We planned to make hula hoops, practice communication with games and collaborate on a project of their choosing.
On Day One the girls got so creative during snack time that we abandoned other plans.
After grazing on strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, apples and snow peas in our garden, they begged: “Can we make fruit salad?”
An hour later, we shared a gorgeous array of dishes made entirely by them. Surprise: basil with a dusting of sugar is excellent! Who knew?
The day was focused, playful, smiling, laughing, experimental, productive, problem solving. But it had little to do with our ideas, other than a few movement games Katherine led us in.
On Day Two we went to the beach. My favorite moment was crouching in wonder at the colors and textures of life in a square foot of tide pool. Calloway led me there, to catch crabs to stay in her Crab Hotel made from a clam shell.
On Day Three we brainstormed project ideas on a giant pad. “Let’s bake pies with the fruit! Let’s make art! A treasure hunt!” We helped them negotiate and happily blend ideas to create an event for parents and siblings the last day of camp.
On Day Four they devised the official Spark Olympics Treasure Hunt. They wrote rhyming clues to guide our guests to places we explored at camp: the Spring, the Greenhouse, the Blueberry Patch, the Apple Orchard, the Wheelbarrow, and my husband’s Sculpture Garden, aka Junk Pile. Each place had an activity, so parents could try out our games.
On Day Five we scurried like a synchronized team of happy ants, making fresh juices, testing the Spark Olympics before our guests arrived.
We asked them for one word for how they felt. “Excited! Happy! Ready!”
The event was beautiful, epic. Though our plans went by the wayside, the intention held: to build core confidence through the creative joys of collaboration. And it was done almost by magic, without trying.
What did I learn? That the real juice of learning happens when we trust the moment. Bits of what we know – or want to know – can simply flow between us, lifted by smiles and laughter.
Creativity is more than making art or music. It’s using what we have (fruit, the land, each other) to make something beautiful and useful.
This feels good, like evolution. And it will live on in memory, feeding us long after the last piece of pie is gone.