As director of Arte al Sole: A Tuscan Cultural Adventure for International Children, each year I wonder how the experiences of the children who attend this day camp at a rural property in the Lucca hills will shape their perceptions and memories of their time with the family in Italy. I’ve found over the years that these experiences are all very different, but always cherished and memorable.
Teachers often say there is nothing more rewarding than hearing how they have influenced their students. In recent months, parents of children who attended last summer’s art camp generously passed along some examples of Arte al Sole alumni schoolwork that reflected their experiences. These touching words illustrate how observant children are amid the often awe-inspiring monuments and landscapes they are exposed to in Italy. But you should really hear this straight from the mouths of babes:
Julia of Encinitas, California, cited Italy as her inspiration for a 5th grade science project, as she explains to her school teacher:
“Inventing a water segway really piqued my interest because I loved the thought of possibly inventing a new, useful, watercraft. I thought of this project when I did an art camp in Italy … One day we studied Leonardo DaVinci and we made our own little inventions. I had seen a segway before and I thought they were very cool so I wanted to invent one for water. For my project I am trying to figure out if it is possible to build a life-size, functional water segway. In doing this I will make many mini-models showing either that it is or isn’t possible to build a life-size one. I think that it is possible to build one.”
Isabella of Santa Barbara, California, wrote about her experiences during an essay writing lesson in her 3d grade class:
“At Arte al Sole you get to make puppets and have a puppet show. You get to do art and have lots of fun at a villa with a vineyard.”
For parents, many times the gratification of seeing their children so fulfilled during their holiday provides for a new sense of relaxation on their trip, and needed time for themselves. For the Henderson family of Montecito, California, who frequently spend summers in Europe, the anticipation of looking forward to attending art camp helped to keep their 6-year-old daughter content during the first two weeks of their trip, while her attendance at the program gave the whole family some time to explore on their own.
Parent John Henderson observed:
“Having a daughter who is very interested in arts and crafts and loves to travel, this was the perfect combination for her and nice for us as well. The time she spent having fun with her friends at Arte al Sole, allowed us to get away and see some sights during the day. There was always time after the camp for us to spend time together. Whether it was just hanging out by the pool heading off for an early dinner, it was a great atmosphere in a super location with so much to see and do in such a close proximity.”
Finally, trips are always more memorable when we make friends along the way. Parents often tell me that for the students, meeting other kids during their holiday and having their own time to play and have fun in many ways makes family time after art camp all the more special. For parents, by midweek many have formed friendships among themselves and are carpooling to camp, exchanging sightseeing advice, meeting for lunch at an amazing trattoria they discovered, or even heading off for a ladies’ day out at the nearby thermal baths while dads do…whatever they very well please!
At the end of the week, parents join us at the villa to attend an art exhibit and performance featuring their children’s creations. The kids burst with pride at the idea of hosting their parents and displaying and explaining all the arts, crafts, experiments, and innovations they produced during their very own “Italy art camp.”
Shannon Venable is director of Arte al Sole (www.artealsole.com) and publisher of Italiakids.com, an online resource for international families in Italy.
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