SPRING BREAK CAMP: Embracing Irregularity

Because spring break is a much needed break from the rigid school schedule, parents tend to let their kids follow their bliss.    I am in full support of this irregularity.  Kids need a break from the regular routine, and they love the fun things they get to do over spring break.  

Here's a list of reasons kids were missing part time from this camp: 

  • slept late
  • going to the movies
  • sick
  • going to the doctor
  • birthday party
  • going to work with mom
  • staying home with a sitter to do nothing
  • going climbing
  • vacation

But the irregularity does create a bit of a challenge when trying to create a project together with the group.    In years past I have solved this problem with "5 plays in 5 days" (which is exactly what it sounds like), but I still ended up with kids leaving early or arriving late.   And the children who were there all day for 5 days didn't get to capitalize on that building momentum. 

So.....

This year I decided to create a new Play in a Week format:   We would work on 1 play all week, and create 1 scene each day (almost like a mini 1 act play).  We would practice the created acts each day (using stand-ins if necessary), and add a new one using children who were present.   Parents were invited to rehearsal at the end of the day each day (or they could opt to come see the final product at the end of the week).  

Our daily performances: 

Day 1: We performed the scene where the problem happened, showing the setting, characters and the main problem. . 

Day 2: We performed an expanded scene, with the characters establishment leading into the problem itself, showing a bit of backstory and establishment of the setting/characters to show off their change/reactions to the problem.  

Day 3: We determined it was a hero/quest story, and performed 2 scenes of possible solutions (with narration to explain what happened before.  In retrospect, I think it might have been possible to establish the necessary information without narration.)

Day 4: We performed a full run through, sans ending. (we hadn't established that yet!) adding 2 supporting characters, and more emotion.   We also worked on moving through transitions clearer/faster.

Day 5:  We performed the full play, with costumes, set, programs, 1 more character and an ending!

This format allowed for some notable results: 

  • Because each day's scene was it's own play, it was clearly developed (for 5-9 year olds!) with a beginning, middle, and ending. 
  • Children who were there for multiple days became more comfortable playing/creating in their roles and making new moments each day.  
  • Building onto a bigger story allowed for kinds of creative contributions:  Some kids felt more comfortable assuming a role that was already set and had blocking, lines, and reactions.  Some kids wanted to create a new character or moment.  And some wanted to work on props/costumes.  This format allowed for all of that, letting kids participate where they felt comfortable.   
  • Missing children in established roles meant that we needed replacements.    This provided an opportunity for children to try out a part just for fun, or perform a part created by someone else (using someone else's ideas... and sometimes wearing someone else's shoes!). And in some cases, the character became even more developed because someone else had added to that vision.