- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
School is out, but camp is so in.
The doors on the lockers at Leonardtown High School stand open and the lockers are empty, and most of the classrooms are dark at the school. But, this week, several rooms were put back in use as 103 third- through fifth-grade students participated in the St. Mary’s County Public Schools Elementary School Summer Fine Arts Camp, which met from Monday through Thursday at the school.
The auditorium hosted the theater students, the most popular option this year, according to Lynne Morgan Smoot, supervisor of instruction for fine arts. Art students worked on photography and painting in the art rooms and the band and orchestra students took up two large rooms. There weren’t enough chorus students this year to have a separate group, so those campers were included in the theater group.
On Wednesday morning, the theater students met in small groups on and around the school’s stage and worked on skits they wrote that they were preparing to perform the following day. They waved their arms, rehearsed lines, laughed at mistakes.
One group included Audrey Wojcik, 10, of Hollywood, a rising fifth-grader at Leonardtown Elementary, and Isobel “Isi” Hornbuckle, 11, of Leonardtown, who just finished fifth-grade at the same school. Their group was working on a skit about their airplane malfunctioning and the passengers being stranded on a snowy mountain. Following the overall camp theme this year, “Passport to Adventure,” each group was assigned a place to write a skit about.
“It’s a funny story,” Hornbuckle said of the snowy mountain skit.
This is Hornbuckle’s third year at the fine arts camp. “I don’t really see it as school,” she said. “It’s having a great time being creative. I find it a really great way to start the summer.”
This is Wojcik’s first year at the camp, and it is a way for her to try something she’s never done before but always wanted to acting, she said. “I thought this would be a good way to start,” she said.
Neither camper felt like they were missing out on their summer vacation by being back in school. “It’s more just a you-have-a-good-time kind of thing,” Wojcik said of the camp. “At school, you have to be all serious.”
“You kind of get some real-world experience,” Hornbuckle said.
Tracie Pisarcik, a teacher with the camp’s theater program, who during the school year teaches theater at Chopticon High School, said one of the strengths of the camp is the amount of time focused on the subject of choice, instead of being confined to the regular school periods like during the school year.
“It’s an extended opportunity for some intense creativity,” Pisarcik said, as she watched the campers work on their skits.
Pisarcik has two sons in the art program this year, and she said they don’t mind at all getting up and going to camp, which is on a similar schedule to their regular school, meeting from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day, with an evening of the arts set for Thursday evening to showcase the campers’ work.
“My kids jump out of bed in the morning,” she said.
Dale Moreland, 10, of Mechanicsville was a camper in the camp’s visual arts program. On Wednesday morning, he sat at a table with other students cutting pictures out of magazines that they were using to decorate black box “cameras” they had made.
Moreland took a break from cutting out a picture of Darth Vader to describe some of the work in photography the campers had already done that week. “We’re making like film boxes,” Moreland said. “And then we’re cutting out pictures to put on the box so they won’t look as boring.”
Connected to the art room, a group of students were working in a dark room, where they were learning how to develop film. Next door, a group of campers were painting.
“It’s fun. Well, yeah, [it’s like school], it’s like learning different kinds of art,” Moreland said.
The orchestra was practicing a piece from Japan that involves using construction paper as a percussion instrument (when it is shaken) and as a bow on their instruments. The band campers were practicing “Guantanamera,” as teacher Todd Burroughs, the band teacher at Chopticon, conducted with a pencil.
It was a week to reminisce for Smoot. She will officially retire from the school system after the camp, and Laurel Dietz will take over as supervisor of instruction for fine arts. “It’s in good hands,” Smoot said of the job.
Smoot started the fine arts camp nine years ago, starting with just an elementary school option and adding a middle school camp the following year. One way the camp is a little unusual from similar camps elsewhere is the inclusion of reading and writing instruction for 45 minutes each day, as well as 45 minutes of movement classes, Smoot said. It was difference that she particularly wanted in the St. Mary’s camp.
“Fine arts students need to understand that reading and writing are important to their education. I made sure that was a part of the camp,” she said.
The camp is funded by student tuition of $130 per in-county resident camper and $180 for out-of-county resident campers. The camp is partially funded through a grant from the St. Mary’s County Arts Council.
The middle school fine arts camp will be held July 9 to 12 at Leonardtown High School, and registration will continue to be accepted until July 9. For more, see www.smcps.org/tlpd/tl/gifted-and-talented/summer-activities or call 301-475-5511, ext. 112.