As new members of our Chatham County community, Chatham Park is powering our Go See This series this year because art is an integral part of Chatham County’s identity. They join us in inviting you to Go See This . . .
Clapping Hands Farm is a true arts and nature camp in Pittsboro that features acres of woods and fields, a fairy forest, trails, a pond, a hand-pumped well, use-your-foot sinks, and solar power. Their unique programs focus on visual and performing arts, nature, and culture, featuring working artists and naturalists as the lead teachers, and an economically and culturally diverse community. The farm’s outdoor camps and workshops have always been popular and often booked up quickly, but when the pandemic hit in March, owner Louise Omoto Kessel was in a quandary.
“When we closed our Tuesday Art Camp for Homeschoolers in mid March, I knew some other organizations were taking their programs online,” says Louise. “I thought about it for a few days, talked about it with some of our staff, and thought, “NO. I don’t want to. Camp is about people connecting person-to-person and being outside all day! We don’t even ALLOW electronics at camp!” If you watch our GoFundMe video you will see it’s about the polar opposite of “social distancing.” I just didn’t think it would work on Zoom.
But a month later, I started thinking about all these kids who would be home all summer living with a pandemic, not able to see friends as much. So many of their favorite things shut down. Not able to travel as much or see family even. I also realized that I wouldn’t see my campers at all if we didn’t do SOMETHING. So, I changed my mind. I ran a series of experiments on Zoom and Facebook Live, some of our favorite teachers agreed to offer workshops, we ran experiments to get ready for their classes, and THEN we ran 14 Zoom workshops over the summer!”
The switch from running in-person camp and workshops to running them on Zoom was not an easy one, and a change that Louise was not convinced would work perfectly. “I did NOT know what to expect — I was secretly prepared to hate it! But I was pleasantly surprised. I remember thinking during one of the sessions, “I’ve never met this camper before, and I LIKE her!” It kind of amazed me that we could forge new friendships and people’s personalities could come through, even on Zoom!”
Louise and her team learned a lot over the summer about the intricacies of running classes online, including how to foster friendships and community. “At the end of the summer, we had a Friday evening Zoom gathering where all the different workshops showed off what they had done,” says Louise. “I had either taught or sat in on lots of these workshop sessions, but I was still BLOWN AWAY by seeing it all in one place! People danced, played mbiras and talking drums they had built themselves, demonstrated throwing boomerangs they had made, and showed off cute felted animals and full-sized quilts! Campers ranged from four-year-olds to adults, all happily sharing things they had made themselves.”
One of the benefits of running her classes on Zoom was the ability to accommodate a wider variety of people to join and from many different locations. “A couple of things that were in the plus column for Zoom was that a lot of adults who had always wanted to be campers were able to join our workshops and people from far away were able to join camp, too,” says Louise. “We had campers and staff from Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, London, Western North Carolina, and Massachusetts.
We tried to bring our camp culture, which is mostly about community, inclusion, connection, and being welcoming, with us to Zoom. Every workshop had a check-in where people got to say how they were personally doing, and express appreciation for anything or anybody.
That actually worked really well. People were very happy to have a place to connect with their camp friends, and new campers were welcomed.”
Louise and her team have learned a lot since March, including the following tips that may help people who are running Zoom workshops or classes:
- It’s really helpful to have someone who is on tech support for each workshop. That person creates break-out rooms, lets people in from the waiting room, notices who isn’t there, sends a Zoom invite reminder to anyone who didn’t show up, and in general handles the Zoom environment so the teacher can just teach.
- Open-ended art projects work really well and are fun to do on Zoom. Projects that are a little more technical that have many steps that must be done “just so” for the project to work take TWO TO THREE TIMES as long to teach. Even projects that are simple to teach in person, if they must be done “just so” might be challenging on Zoom.
- There are special settings that you just have to know about if you want to teach a successful dance class or have any kind of music sharing. It’s important to learn those settings or things can sound pretty awful. Simultaneous music sharing (like a band practice or a jam) requires other apps. Zoom won’t do it.
- It’s very different working with counselors on Zoom. In person, I can have counselors in the mix and they can help kids who need help and we can all be in the same space. On Zoom, only one person can talk at a time. So, if someone needs help, I need to send a counselor and a camper to a break-out room. But then I can’t see them, so the counselors have to be prepared to teach the whole project themselves in a way they wouldn’t have needed to in person.
- Getting people in smaller groups in break-out rooms is important so people can unmute, talk, and have that camper-to-camper connection. Otherwise it’s only teaching artist-to-camper connection.
- We humans are quite adaptable! And getting together on Zoom is still GETTING TOGETHER! Yay!
Interested in taking a class this Fall?
Clapping Hands Farm is offering fun and interactive online workshops this Fall for homeschoolers ages 7 to adult. The workshops span many disciplines, including math, science, geography, culture, art and music. They include:
*World of Felting with Louise Omoto Kessel (Tues., 1-3pm, Sept. 15 – Dec. 8) ages 9 to adult; younger campers can come on a case-by-case basis or with adult support
*Felt Studio for Experienced Felters with Louise Omoto Kessel (Tues., 4-6pm, Sept. 15 – Dec. 8) ages 12 to adult
*Mbira Build and Play with Teli Shabu (Thurs., 10:30am-noon, Sept. 17 – Nov.5) ages 10 to adult; 7-9 year old welcome with parent
- What: Clapping Hands Farm online classes
- When: various, from September through December
- Where: Zoom
- Cost: Varies, depending on the class. Scholarships available!
- For more information: visit Clapping Hands Farm’s registration page