Why you should start working before school starts… or How our AP Bootcamp works and why.

The Breakdown

Last summer I was trained to teach AP Studio Art so I could teach AP Studio Art in the school year. My colleague Jason (who is awesome, btw) and I planned a super amazing weeklong “AP Bootcamp” to be held the week before school started for any of the kids who were interested in taking AP or those that knew they were in the course. Last year’s bootcamp was incredible – our goals were: Create a community with the AP Studio classes in order to develop artist habits. To jumpstart the art of practicing, making, taking and giving feedback and trying out new things. To complete 2 Breadth pieces.

Last summer our daily schedule was set up so that in the mornings students had a choice between 2 studios – one taught by me, one by Jason – then in the afternoon we worked in one room using a theme to create.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how our week worked last year:

Monday: Teambuilding, community building activities. Small group installation creation.

Tuesday:  Handbuilding techniques or Painting techniques. Memories/Possibilities.

Wednesday: Observational Techniques or Altered Art. Structures/Place.

Thursday: Focus on technology/capturing work/sharing work.  Power/Protest.

Friday: Self Portrait/Identity. Then we had a small showcase of student work and had other educators and administrators come and talk to the students.


Overall it was such an amazingly successful week. Both Jason and I wholeheartedly felt so refreshed and ready to begin the year after having spent time with kids in this way.

So again, this year we did it again. And today was our first day. We chose this year to do 4 days for a variety of reasons but this year’s schedule is slightly different due to the building being cleaned so we are staying in one room instead.

Tuesday: Focus on composition. Collage techniques. Clay handbuilding techniques.

Wednesday: Observational Drawing. Structures/Place.

Thursday: Paint Techniques. Power/Protest.

Friday: Open studio/time to complete unfinished work or new ideas. Showcase of work created.

Throughout this week (and last years week) we infused community building by having students talk to each other in low stakes, comfortable ways. We look at and discuss what we see in each other’s work. We talk about ways to improve work without their being any embarrassment.

Why does this work? How do we get kids there?

The Bootcamp works because we advertise it early with kids. We put it on their AP Summer Work sheets and we “pretend require it” – where we say really nicely it’s required and then just positively want kids there. We also provide lunch for kids and if they need transportation we help coordinate it. But overall, our kids want to come. They’re teenagers, so they pretend like they don’t – but they talk about it all year and really enjoy it when they are there. I’m not actually sure because I’ve just thought of it – but I do think that the students who come had higher scores on their portfolios – don’t quote me on that just yet though. The more we invite kids, the more they feel wanted – so we send them messages through Remind throughout the summer to remind (ha!) them that we are thinking of them! It’s incredible – kids want to go to something where they feel wanted!

This is the best way for our department to begin our school year – creating positive connections and community with our students. How do you set up your schoolyear in order to both support your students in creating a community that everyone wants to be a part of AND one that YOU want to be a part of? What do you in the final weeks, days before school starts? Do you avoid kids at all costs or are you frantically finishing signs, labels, posters, syllabi? Try hard to reframe those final moments – not to savor the moments away from kids, but trying hard to ease your way back in in the most positive way you can. How can you set up something small like this in your school or community?

If you’d like to follow our department – check out nhsartdept on Instagram! 

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