“My neighborhood is boring, boring, and more boring.”
My nine-year-old partner, Henry, certainly had a way with words.
I had taken the train to Center City to volunteer with kids such as Henry at an art workshop at Moore University called “This is My Philly,” and it was not going how I had envisioned. It was a small classroom full of volunteers from local colleges and elementary school children between the ages six and 10. Our job as aspiring graphic designers was to help the kids make posters and poems representing what they liked about where they lived. All Henry had to say about his neighborhood was that it was boring, which made my job a little more difficult.
“Ok, but you must like something about your neighborhood, what do you like to do?” I asked.
“Play Minecraft in my basement,” Henry replied.
Clearly, I was getting nowhere. I looked around at what the other kids were doing and was envious of their creative endeavors of cut paper, colorful paints, and lengthy poems. Henry noticed I was distracted and started talking again.
“Yeah there’s nothing fun to do… except for that one time I went to the batting cages.” Now he had my attention. I told him that sounded like a lot of fun and asked if he wanted to start his project with the batting cages in mind. He didn’t seem interested, so I tried a different approach. Instead of mentioning the project directly, I encouraged him to keep talking about the batting cages and what he liked about them, and when I didn’t understand something I asked him to draw it out.
After a while, he got excited about his project, and I was offered a glimpse into his imagination. Granted, he drew pictures of Superman holding a giant bat next to a man-eating baseball monster, and his poem was comprised mainly of the phrase “baseball is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!” but it was still neat to see him express himself creatively.
I’ve done arts and crafts with kids before, but this was more of an unique experience because it was run by artists, which made it more personal. I felt as if I had more to offer since it was in my field of study, and I had a lot of fun demonstrating some of the things I had learned in class to a younger audience. I may have gone in with high expectations for my partner, expecting him to create a masterpiece, but I realized that the experience wasn’t about making the best poster. It was about giving kids a chance to be creative, and in my field of study, creativity is one of the most important aspects of life.