A world of patterns opens up at Camp Explore

By Josh Raymer

Patterns can be found all around us. They’re evident in the rings of a tree, glimpsed in the repetition of themes in our favorite book, and found in the beautiful colors of a mosaic. Patterns are the lens through which first, second, and third graders are exploring learning at Camp Explore this summer. Originally called The Summer Camp, this one-week camp offered by The Center for Gifted Studies features classes in acting, art, clowning, language arts, and science.

Getting into the mind of a character is an instrumental part of acting and an example of pattern, said instructor Julie Boggess. “When you’re doing a role, you don’t just start reading the lines,” she explained. “There’s a pattern in what you do because you can’t memorize lines until you figure out your character.” A play itself offers another example. “You wouldn’t applaud before the play begins,” Julie said. “Everything has a rhythm.”

While students tackle tongue twisters and improvisation in acting, art instructor Bethany Inman is introducing motifs and teaching that patterns don’t have to be in a row. Her first graders are looking at the Mexican folk art of Oaxacan wood carving and making their own foil embossing of wood carving characters. One class of second and third graders is studying mosaic mandalas, which show that patterns can be in a circle and demonstrate radial balance, and another class is making plaster molds of their hands and adorning them with henna tattoos. These inky embellishments teach students about repeating lines and naturalistic shapes.

“The kids think each subject that they learn is segregated,” Bethany said. “This is a great vehicle through patterns to make those cross-curricular connections and get a broad view of how you see patterns. It’s the perfect theme for this age.”

Clowning is filled with patterns, revealed Nick Wilkins, whose alter ego is Broadway the Clown. Costuming, juggling, makeup, and balloon sculptures are just a few examples Nick covers in class. “Juggling is mainly a pattern,” Nick said. “If they stay within that pattern, they’re more likely to be successful.” Same thing with makeup: “What kind of pattern do I want to use on my face? Do I want to use a symmetrical pattern or maybe an asymmetrical mouth? That’s their creative choice.”

Jackson (left) and Max race to blow water droplets across wax paper in Science Monday, July 6, during Camp Explore. (Photo by Sam Oldenburg)
Jackson (left) and Max race to blow water droplets across wax paper in Science Monday, July 6, during Camp Explore. (Photo by Sam Oldenburg)

Language Arts instructor Dianne Wade has students examining repeating themes in a story, actions that created an appearance change, alliteration, rhyming words, and drawing pictures of the action that caused the appearance change they described. To her, understanding patterns is foundational to better understanding the world around us. “Life is made of patterns,” she said. “If your pattern is working well, you want to continue that pattern. If it’s not going well, you want to make changes.”

Andrea Heming and the students in her science class are engaging in a two-fold investigation of patterns. The first phase involves looking at patterns in water and how the density of substances makes patterns. In phase two, students inspect the best structures and the science and engineering behind them. The class created a density rainbow, and later in the week they’ll make boats from a hodgepodge of materials and build structures out of marshmallows and spaghetti, then clay and skewers.

“It makes them ask questions,” Andrea said of the camp’s theme. “If they can find the pattern of something, especially in math or science, then they know things repeat and they’re more comfortable and not so afraid of it. When they get older, they tend to be more afraid of the learning and they just want the answer. If they figure out the pattern early on, they can do it and not be so frustrated.”

Patterns also jump start young minds, Nick added. “It stimulates the learning process and triggers their mind,” he said “They think about how patterns are used in everyday life.”