Interlochen Summer Arts Camp
When I first learned about Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, I almost didn’t believe it. You mean there are kids out there who will voluntarily spend time indoors during the summer? Actually studying? Taking new techniques and knowledge seriously and applying it on the spot?
Don’t get me wrong—I believe in today’s teenagers and always have; it’s one of the reasons I got my Montessori Teacher Certification for ages 12-15 after undergrad. But as a total nature nut who also happens to be a writer, I couldn’t conjure a classroom full of willing young writers—in summertime—in my mind’s eye until I actually met them. At right is one bunch I taught last summer, in a pre-planned goofy pose.
The magic of Interlochen and the talent and enthusiasm of these students is no rumor. Today was this summer’s first full day of classes and it exceeded my expectations. Scheduled with 11 students from 9-11am and 14 students from 2-4pm, I repeat the same lesson plans to my Intermediate Creative Writing Majors, but adjust prompts and writing samples on the fly depending on the needs of the group. For part of today’s get-to-know-you games, I had them do partner interviews. One of the questions the interviewer asked the interviewee was: “What unanswerable question do you have about the world? What’s something you wonder about?”
Their answers delighted me. Here’s a handful:
· “Does it hurt to die?”
· “What is the definition of the word ‘the’?”
· “What will prevent people from being mean?”
· “What is the point of mosquitoes?”
· “Will there ever be a woman president in the United States?”
· “Do dreams connect to real life?”
· “What really happened in Cabin 5?”
· “What was the first star?”
Of course, after hearing such exciting questions like that (and tossing potential answers back and forth), we just had to do a freewrite. For three minutes, I had the students write in paragraph form, questions only. It didn’t matter if the questions connected or made sense, they just needed to try and keep asking. Next, they chose the question that had the most sense of wonder or mystery for them and began a “What if?” poem pondering potential answers to their question.
It’s all great learning disguised as fun and games, but at the end of 3 weeks each student will have sampled poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, as well as workshopped their own writing and given a public reading (3 minutes each). Here’s a few of last year’s majors feeling heroic after taking the stage: