Guyana A.R.T.S. Summer Program Summary
Guyana A.R.T.S. is a youth development program that allows teens and pre-teens to Act, Reach, Think, and Shine through the arts. The program idea came about after discussing the lack of activities and allowances for creative outlets for older students in my community. Many students in the "Tops" program at Yakusari Primary School, along with some community members and parents, felt that having a program that would allow students to learn through art would motivate teens to continue with their education.
Ultimately, the Guyana A.R.T.S. program will be implemented in four primary and secondary schools in the Berbice region, and already a week-long camp was held in Bartica, Region 7. In order to see this expansion of the program, however, I wanted to have a pilot program in Yakusari, Black Bush, to test ideas and lessons. Thus, the Headmistress at Yakusari Primary School and I created a four-week summer program where students would come daily for an hour and a half to do visual arts, music, and drama/storytelling.
The daily lessons included the following activities: drawing self-portraits and writing words that describe themselves, along with discussing their future and what they want to be when they grow up; making "flappers" (or cootie catchers) and discussing fortunes; make crayon rubs and discussing pressure and force; finger painting, learning abstract v. concrete, and discussing symmetry; making up conditional sentences and discussing consequences; playing "Telephone Charades" and discussing body language and actions; performing Indian dances and "the Electric Slide" and discussing cultural differences; making drawings cut into thirds and discussing how perception is different than truth; making watercolor paintings and discussing color blending and diluting pigments; making paper mache masks and discussing recycling and reinforcing symmetry; doing an "Originality Test" and discussing what it takes to be an original individual; making play dough beads and discussing science and reinforcing color blending; preparing for the field trip by dying the macaroni for the necklaces and discussing why it is important to volunteer; making portraits of their idols and discussing how they can become someone's idol by taking what they have learned throughout the program and sharing it with others; and finally, playing lots of games, including relay races, "Duck, Duck, Goose" and "Dog and the Bone" (or "Steal the Bacon") and singing lots of songs, including "Grand Old Duke of York" and "Alice the Camel."
Along with the actual arts activities, we wanted to make sure that the program also included activities that would allow for leadership among the older students and participation in community service activities for all. At the end of the third week, a teacher from Yakusari Primary School and I took 13 of the students on a field trip to an orphanage located about an hour away in New Amsterdam. We spent a little over an hour at the orphanage, where the students split up into four groups and led different art projects they had learned to make previously in their lessons. After the orphans had a chance to rotate to complete all the art projects, we said goodbye and took the students to lunch at "Church's Chicken" before heading back home. At the end of the program, all the students agreed that this was their favorite part of the summer program, and they could not wait to go back again.