Over the next few weeks, PAONE is looking at arts education in the blissful (and sometimes chaotic!) summer months.
In the first chapter of this series, we chat with PAONE board member, Amber Ebert, who is also the School & Community Programs Manager at Young People’s Theatre.
PAONE: What are you up to this summer at YPT?
AE: During the summer YPT shifts gears. Our production season finishes in May and our Summer Camp takes over the building for July and August. Every space in the theatre is filled with children playing and creating new theatrical work. As the School & Community Programs Manager, I am not directly involved with Summer Camp and generally, for me, summer is a quieter time where I focus on reporting and planning for next season. However, this summer we are already confirmed to facilitate 25 workshops at summer camps and organizations throughout the city such as at the Toronto Public Library, H.appi Camper and Macaulay Child Development Centre. So, it’s going to be busy!
PAONE: Can you tell us about the programming and how it connects to arts education?
AE: Each of the community programs that we are delivering this summer support youth-led creation and facilitated play. The programs range from one hour to a series of sessions delivered over a full month. The participants range from parents and their toddlers in Regent Park to teenagers taking part in a special workshop at their local library to Syrian refugee children spending their first summer in Canada. In all of our programs we aim to introduce drama and theatre skills, encourage creativity, and build confidence in the participants.
PAONE: What is special about summer programming? Why do you feel it’s important?
AE: The partner organizations we are working with approached us to provide a special opportunity for their campers/participants as a fun change of pace from their regular programs or as a way to provide them access to a particular arts discipline. I believe that summer is a time to have fun and grow – it is my goal that our programs provide the opportunity for the participants to do just that. For most children, attending camp or participating in an activity in their local community is an opportunity for them meet new friends and interact in ways that differ from their normal ‘in-school’ life. While sometimes scary, the freedom that comes from these new experiences has the potential to make a big impact on their social and emotional development.
PAONE: What will you be doing when you aren’t working this summer?
AE: Getting outside, playing in the sun, sleeping on the grass, and swimming as much as possible. I love riding my bike and have already been able to take some time off to go on a cycling and camping trip to the Adirondacks. I try to get outside as much as possible during the summer to take advantage of the long days by playing beach volleyball after work. I’m also lucky that I have access to a family cottage on Lake Erie and I try to get there on weekends whenever I can.
PAONE: What’s the best thing about summer in Toronto?
AE: The diversity of activities. I love that there is always something to happening from big art and street festivals to small community art shows. You can be as busy or as lazy as you choose.
Amber Ebert is a PAONE board member and the School & Community Programs Manager at Young People’s Theatre where she facilitates educational programming for students and teachers. Amber has a background in professional theatre and music performance, management and education.