Welcome back to our guest series with the New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences, a nonprofit based in Camden which promotes the understanding, appreciation and protection of aquatic life and habitats through research, education and youth development programs. Over the last two weeks, we’ve explored different perspectives from participants in their CAUSE program, which works with high school students and 8th graders who, in turn, teach a range of science concepts to younger kids during the summer.
Today, we hear from 4th year intern Alexis on the power of art as a transformative teaching tool:
By Alexis S.
A lot of people disregard art as something that can only be for people who are extremely talented, gifted or just have the money to pay for expensive classes to build their skills. However, it’s fair to say, from my perspective, that this is absolutely false. Art is for everyone. I have grown through my art, because it is not just pretty pictures, it is expression and creativity. That’s the key word: creativity. Without it, you’re life will be immensely boring. I have never been very open with my creativity, I have hidden it, ashamed of people critiquing me and putting me down. I was the shyest girl with the lowest of low self esteem. Of course, life gives us these funny chances that, if we choose wisely to take them, we can break out of our shells.
In my freshman year of high school, I had the opportunity to interview for a job at the New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences, a youth development program for local teens attending Camden City high schools. I was accepted into the CAUSE Program and had to deal with a fifteen to twenty week program of marine biology. I really wanted to quit during that time because I was definitely not science person. Yet, some infinite force told me to stay with it, and so I hung on, waiting what could be next after training. What was next? Curriculum writing. I had found my calling in my job. Ok, so writing the long backgrounds about specific science topics was a bit much for me, but after writing this, I was given the task of creating activities for that background material.
When camp finally came around, I really realized why I was there. The activities I helped create were my own, made through my own creativity, and I shared them with my students in grades k-2. To see the children express themselves and not care if their art and crafts weren’t award-winning pieces, was like floating back to being a kid myself. The next year of curriculum writing, I put more effort into creating activities, however, I relied less on what I could find on the internet and more on my own mind. It was much easier than I thought, because I realized that art played a huge role. Creating something meant putting thought and your whole self into it. During that same time, I had been dealing with a lot of depression and had started seeing an art therapist. It was a struggle dealing with work and problems at home.
In my third year I did a complete turnaround from the previous year. Art therapy had been proving to help me and I was more focused at work. I gave writing activities my all, and I realized I began applying art therapy methods into activity development. That year in camp, the kids began to become more open with me, speaking about their problems and how much fun they had at camp during the summer. I saw myself in those kids, those little ones who were hanging onto their childhood like a rope, trying to ignore all the negativity around them. I was there to help. I knew what it was like to be them, and I wanted to be there for them a hundred percent.
Now as a fourth year, I include creativity into everything I do, not just camp, but when we do outreach programs. Creativity can be anything. It can be creating a skit from the top of your head to make a lesson much more fun and intriguing. It can be creating masks and costumes and showing the kids what it is like to be an animal or an explorer for a day. It can be a drawing of how you plan to make the world better, and it can be anything you want it to be. Through my four years at my job, I realized art is much more than what it seems. It is the creativity to inspire those around you, and with this creativity, I want to become an art therapist and never ever stop helping kids. •
This series continues next Wednesday