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Kindling Kid's Future

kids performing improv

Summertime is a relief from the hustle and bustle of busy school mornings and endless nights battling over homework. Summer also brings the burden of entertaining the kids. Camps provide a brief respite for child and parent. There are the standard offerings that will send your kids into the woods and have you worrying whether all creatures great and small will be taking a bite out of them. But how can you find something that is fun and yet is teaching them something valuable for their future?

You would think CSz's Comedy Camps are all about being "funny" and more about playing than learning. However, there is much more that improv can offer kids. We focus on the basic skills of improv: teamwork, trust, and a "Yes, and..." collaborative mindset. The Improv classes are designed for ages 9-13 and three levels of experience. We asked one improv camper for her best memory:

“Meeting new people. Learning how to play nicely in games. I liked my instructors [Christine Walters and Malerie Anderson] because they were smart and pretty.” ~ Charlie “Cupcake” S.

Sketch and Musical camps are available for ages 11-18. The Musical Improv camp builds on the improv classes. We ask one merry music maker to describe her memories of the week:

“Practices were always the most fun. My fellow cast members are some of the funniest people I know. Every day we'd have an enormous amount of fun, yet somehow put together an entire show. I honestly didn't think we'd be able to pull it off, but in the end, the shows were so much fun to perform. I cannot stress enough how much fun last summer was because of this production and I'm sure it's going to be the highlight of my summer again this year.” ~ Audrey “The Voice” S.

You'll see their self-confidence blossom but the real magic of learning improv techniques at an early age is to prepare them for a different type of career in a different type of workplace. Yes, we got heavy all of sudden, but stay with me.

Think about how many years you spent at school and how much of what you learned at school, you apply in your daily lives. School provides a necessary learning foundation. However, the model used today was designed to keep the military-industrial machine running in Prussia in the 1800s by churning out obedient soldiers and compliant workers. It was the inspiration behind the education system implemented in Massachusetts in 1852. It seemed to adequately prepare American youth for the 20th century’s industrialized economy and became the basis of the American education system.

The problem with this education system is that it continues to churn out uniform, creatively stunted workers that are ideal for a 19th-century industrial labor market which no longer exists. We have left the industrial age, are at the tail end of the knowledge age, and are fast entering the age of the innovation economy. The companies of tomorrow will rely increasingly on having a steady flow of innovative thinkers who take risks, experiment with the unexpected, and are generally not be afraid of failing in an increasingly uncertain future. Those companies will crave creativity, not conformity.

“We need a pedagogy free from fear and focused on the magic of children’s innate quest for information and understanding." - Sugata Mitra

The science is in. There is a connection between creativity, curiosity, and the very playfulness that comes naturally to kids but is drained from them with age. In their book on “Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation”, authors Patrick Bateson and Paul Martin pour through studies on how play enhances creativity in children, adults, and organizations. Their conclusion on children: “We are impressed by the evidence of short-term links between play on childhood and creativity. Creativity, we believe, can be fostered by some aspects of play, particularly playful play (1) ... [The] overall picture suggests that those who determine the shape of education have much to gain from fostering a positive, playful mood in the learning environment.”

As their parent, you ultimately shape the education of your child. Improv is that inherently playful learning environment. Working as a team to support each other in accepting and building on each other's ideas. That is the reality of their future and at at the heart of improv. Let their playful path start here:

(1) Nina Lieberman (Playfulness: its relationship to imagination and creativity. New York: Academic Press, 1977) defines playfulness as a state in which the child exhibits spontaneity, manifest joy and a sense of humor.

Guy “no, not THAT guy” has been raging against the military-industrialist machine for as long as anyone at CSz RVA can remember.

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