If you are looking for a different way to experience Italy with kids Arte al Sole does the trick. We participated in their art and cultural camp a few summers ago in Umbria and loved it. Shannon Kenny, the Director of the program, asked if she could give Ciao Bambino readers a few updates regarding her program. Absolutely! Shannon provides an incredible resource to international families.
This coming year Arte al Sole is expanding thanks to continued enthusiastic support among our partners in Italy, in global education, and traveling families. Now in its eighth year, Arte al Sole provides children ages 6-12 the opportunity to explore the artistic and natural wonders of diverse regions through exciting and engaging activities in art history, fine arts principles, nature walks, sketching and painting, collage, architecture, sculpture, craftsmanship, and science.
Each session includes a cooking lesson preparing regional dishes and a fieldtrip to local museums and architectural sites. The program is entirely in English, offering an optimal language immersion experience for children of all ages and languages. A teen leadership program is also offered for students ages 13-17.
New for this year, parents will have an opportunity to take a cooking course with Slow Food expert and cookbook author Pamela Sheldon Johns at her Poggio Etrusco farm in Montepulciano, the home base for our new additional Tuscany site.
Recent studies indicating how the arts affect student achievement and self-growth reflect my personal experiences with the ways children thrive when their natural curiosity is satiated by engagement with the visual and performing arts while traveling.
The Arts Education Partnership summarizes some of the most powerful benefits of the arts in children’s learning as including: improvements to student engagement and thinking, advancing critical thinking skills, strengthening problem solving, and improved communication and leadership skills. While looking closely at art and interpreting it visually stimulates a child’s ability to reason and construe inference, creating art soothes and organizes the brain, building a compelling foundation for advancing self-growth and self-esteem in a productive environment.
Art history adds a further layer by providing a context for young children’s natural aesthetic sensibilities — it helps them begin to see the big picture, and tie together the complex connections that are the basis for diverse cultures, which in turn contributes to cross-cultural understanding.
These three elements: self-guided visual exploration, creating art, and understanding the social and historical context of art and culture through exposure to Italy’s bountiful aesthetic and sensory wonders is our magic recipe during the Arte al Sole program. In fact, at the end of each week, it seems the Arte al Sole kids have become junior tour guides for their parents, as they leave our program with a deeper appreciation for the art and innovations they experience as they continue on with in their journey.
Programs are now offered in Florence center during spring break; in Umbria, two locations in Tuscany (Lucca and Montepulciano), and Puglia during the summer; and in Rome center during the winter break.
Shannon Kenny is director of Arte al Sole and publisher of Italiakids.com, an online resource for international families in Italy. Photos by Shannon Kenny
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