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BWW Blog: Four Lessons from 4-Year-Old Camp

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Little did I know, that instead of returning to my beloved Alliance building to work, summer camps would be online this year. 

BWW Blog: Four Lessons from 4-Year-Old Camp

The Alliance Theatre, Atlanta's national, Tony-award-winning theatre, has an outstanding education program. As an Atlanta native, I have grown up attending productions and classes at this esteemed theatre establishment. The passionate people, the gorgeous stages, and the top-notch work all drew me in. Since the first moment I came to the Alliance, I had a feeling that it might be the place I would eventually make my home.

My teaching experience with the Alliance began last year, as a summer education intern. I spent the summer after my freshman year serving as a teaching assistant for the Alliance drama camps. Much of my time was spent with little ones. That summer was all I needed in order to know that my next summer would be again spent with the Alliance. I worked hard, gained more teaching experience, and got hired this summer as a Teaching Artist for 4-year-old camps.

Little did I know, that instead of returning to my beloved Alliance building to work, summer camps would be online this year. Adapting to an online platform seemed like a great challenge, however, the Alliance made the transition almost seamless. Throughout the eleven weeks of camps, the Alliance Theatre reached over 1,000 students in 26 different states, all virtually. The Alliance's summer slogan has been "The stage is virtual. The memories are real," and I wholeheartedly agree with that statement.

BWW Blog: Four Lessons from 4-Year-Old Camp
Miss Audrey takes her
body warm-ups very seriously.

As a Teaching Artist, I worked with little ones virtually from my own room. Some parts of the camp were synchronous, meaning that I was teaching my little campers live on Zoom. Other parts of the camp day included asynchronous learning. To enhance my campers' off-screen time, I made videos of warmups, crafts, and activities for my 4-year-olds to follow. I am grateful to have learned many things from my students, co-teachers, and the Alliance staff. This will be a summer I will never forget, and I know I will employ these invaluable lessons I acquired as I continue throughout my career as a Teaching Artist.

1. Everyone, from the oldest to the youngest of us, is yearning to share experiences, so make sure to genuinely listen.

My four-year old campers were bubbling over with stories, random facts, and detailed comments. Because of quarantine, most of us probably felt the same way as my students: we long to talk to someone that is outside our family. When someone has an abundance to say to the world, one should feel empowered to share. However, it's very important to take time to listen more than you talk when building relationships. Passively listening doesn't cut it either; one must lean in and engage. My little ones could tell that I was actively listening, and I noticed that they reciprocated this.

BWW Blog: Four Lessons from 4-Year-Old Camp
Crafting is oodles of fun! Miss Audrey taught
her campers how to make their own mailboxes.

2. In the moment, going the extra mile can be difficult, but putting in the additional hours in order to be creative is worth it.

Creating online resources for little ones to enjoy is a big job. Because they can't read, everything must be spoken. That means that I made videos explaining crafts, activities, and warmups. Before this summer, I could barely attach two video clips together. After taking many hours to learn iMovie, I was able to provide my students with engaging, funny videos that even had special effects. The extra time spent learning, filming, and editing allowed me to hone a new skill that will be beneficial in my future teaching career.

3. A supportive leadership team can make a seemingly challenging job a pleasure.

Teaching virtual drama camps to four-year-olds could have made for a really difficult summer. However, I felt like I was prepared due to the leadership team of Alliance Education. Before camps started, I was provided with multiple training sessions on the virtual platforms I would use. During the summer, my supervisors were always easy to reach and continually checked in with me to make sure everything was going well. The continuous encouragement not only made the summer amazing, but it also pushed me to work harder.

BWW Blog: Four Lessons from 4-Year-Old Camp
Headshots are essential for actors.
The little ones loved being able to
draw their own with Miss Audrey's guidance.

4. Remember that you are never too grown-up for play; it might just make your day.

The biggest thing I learned from 4-year-old camp is the importance of including play into every day. Due to my goal-oriented nature, sometimes it is difficult to slow down and engage in play. In order to incorporate play into my day, I needed to set aside some time for it. Some of the playful things I did with my campers were dancing to some Disney music first thing in the morning, making crafts, and picking up a stuffed animal and getting silly. My four year old campers inherently knew how to incorporate play into their activities. When you play, you can find joy in every day.

In conclusion, I learned oodles from my little campers and coworkers at the Alliance.

I am grateful to the Alliance Theatre for providing me with such a wonderful summer, as well as my campers for always being willing to get silly.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Audrey Myers