Going on hikes in the woods, experiencing wildlife through birdwatching, gathering sticks and stones on the beach, and watching plants grow in a garden are all examples of ways to get children engaged in observing and exploring their natural world. This summer, Shelburne resident Dawn Schmidt will be creating a space where kids ages eight through 12 can explore and learn about different facets of nature through art. The Art of Nature camp is a series of one-week sessions. Throughout each week, campers will study clouds, birds, rocks, fungi, and plants, and translate this understanding into art using a variety of different artistic methods and mediums.
Schmidt is an artist and art teacher who has taught at Rice Memorial High School for the past 15 years. Schmidt was raised in Vermont in a family where art, nature, and music were themes that surrounded family life. Her father was a prolific artist and musician and her mother possessed a love of nature and an acquired knowledge of and curiosity about all its forms.
Much of Schmidt’s inspiration for the camp was drawn from the book “How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature,” by Scott Sampson. In the book, Schmidt says, the author notes a decline in the amount of time children spend outside compared to their parents’ generation, and an increase in time spent on the computer or watching TV. Sampson also wrote that spending time in nature can help children relieve stress, depression, and attention disorders, reduces bullying, and helps to boost academic success.
Schmidt fondly recalls the summer days of her own childhood, playing in a small wooded lot near her home, building stick forts with the other neighborhood children, and cooking pretend dishes for each other made of berries and nuts and served on bark platters. It is this same kind of creative engagement with nature that she hopes to foster in her campers at the Art of Nature camp this summer, through mini field trips that will be incorporated into each session.
Schmidt hopes her campers will gain an appreciation for both art and the natural world, and, to use writer Scott Sampson’s words, “fall in love with nature and instill a sense of place that will keep our planet healthy.”
Those who are interested in Schmidt’s The Art of Nature camp can find the ad in this week’s Summer Camp Section.