Lessons Learned at Summer Camp

Another June and another session of Fashionista Sewing Camp is done. This year I had six girls, aged 10-17, for six hours a day. I’m not going to lie: It wears me out. But it’s also incredibly fun and rewarding to work with these kids, who inevitably teach me something, as well.

Most years, my campers don’t know each other. Occasionally, I’ll have a pair who are friends sign up to take camp together but usually Monday morning is the first time any of them are meeting each other. One of the first things I do is randomly assign partners to complete an activity together. This year, they had to interview their partner and then design an outfit for that person to wear. Each person then shared the design and explained the reasoning behind it. As I listened to the descriptions, it was clear how seriously they each took the assignment and the depth of questions they’d asked each other. Lesson: Engage the people you meet, ask questions and really listen to what they have to say.

After sharing their designs, I set up all the drawings on a table and asked each person to write down what they liked about the piece. Comments like “I like the colors you used” or “The design on the shirt is really interesting” may not seem like much but I think it’s important to encourage positive talk among kids that age. As the week wore on, I listened as they would compliment each other’s fabric choices or congratulate someone on finishing a project. Or commiserate on having to “un-sew” something. Lesson: Be supportive of others.

One of my sneaky ways of reinforcing a skill or technique is to have my students help each other. Even though they all work on the same projects during the week, they don’t work at the same speed. Having someone who has already sewn the rise of a pair of pajama pants explain to someone else how to handle that curve helps both of them. It doesn’t take long before they volunteer to help each other instead of waiting for me to suggest it. Lesson: Help when you can because sometimes you’ll be the one who needs help.

As the week wears on and the kids warm up to each other, they inevitably find out they have friends in common. It happens every year and it’s always fun to hear the kids discover the connections. This year two of my campers found out they are going to be together at another camp this summer. “I’m so glad I now know someone there!” I heard one say as they departed today. Lesson: It’s a small world — so be nice to others.

My expectations regarding their work depends on how much sewing experience they have. This year, I had two campers who have been sewing for a while, one who’d just completed my Sewing Basics class, one with a little bit of experience, and two who’d never sewn. My experienced two had a much higher bar to meet than the others, so I’d send them to rip and re-sew or press again if needed. The others? Well, I’m generally a bit more relaxed: if it’s workable, we can live with it. Otherwise, it gets redone. Regardless of who it was or how many times I sent her to fix something, not a single person complained. And when someone else made the same mistake, they’d happily share about what they did and how they fixed it. Lesson: Everyone makes mistakes. It’s not a big deal.


One Reply to “Lessons Learned at Summer Camp”

  1. How nice that you cultivate life lessons in these girls along along with sewing lessons… The world needs a lot more people like this looking out for our children.

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