Set your child’s imagination in motion at an Artech Camp
By Heather Laura Clarke
Special Features Writer
The Chronicle Herald – Summer Camp Feature, May 4th, 2013
There’s only one complaint from the Artech campers: they find the lunch break far too long.
“They love everything they’re doing, so they never want to break for lunch,” laughs Ms. Ronnie Scullion, Director and Owner of the Artech Camps. “They eat, and then they can’t wait to get back to their projects.”
Artech started with a core group of programs — animation, robotics, and game design — and they have since added film and digital graphics. This summer, they’re offering web design for the first time. Scullion started running the camps in 2005 on the South Shore, and then added a series of Halifax camps in 2007.
The topics range from Nintendo game design, puppetry, and anime to designing websites, learning graphic design, and producing stop-motion animated films.
“They’re very different from a typical computer camp, because there’s such an emphasis on creativity,” says Scullion. “Technology without creativity can get kind of bland.”
Artech campers are aged 6-14, but there’s also a teen leadership program and a teen game design program. Each week, there’s one camp for 6-10 year-olds and another for 9-14 year-olds.
There are usually more boys than girls in the camps, and Scullion says she always hopes to attract more girls to her camps — but she doesn’t like the idea of running “girls-only” sessions.
“The world beyond the camp — especially within these industries — is both male and female, and the girls who come to our camp handle that just fine,” says Scullion. “Sometimes girls represent only 20 per cent of the camp group, but last year we started seeing that percentage move up. In our film design camp, half the campers were girls.”
Scullion has an Applied Information Technology degree and a Fine Arts degree, and she hires 3-4 counsellors each season to help out. The counselors are usually university students pursuing computer science, film, or animation. They maintain a maximum ratio of one counsellor for every seven campers, so everyone gets plenty of individual instruction and access to the high-tech equipment.
Tyler Harvey has been attending the Artech camps for five summers now, and he’s about to begin his first season as a counsellor. He’s looking forward to working with the campers, and sharing his experience with video game design.
“The camps are a great learning opportunity, plus you have lots of fun,” says Harvey, who is about to finish Grade 11 at Halifax West High School. “I plan to attend school to learn more about digital animation and video game design, and I’d like a job in the video game industry someday.”
Scullion makes sure to bring in guest speakers to talk about their careers in the industry. Last summer, she organized a Skype call with a former instructor to talk to the campers about her new career as a game tester.
“A lot of our campers are keen on video games, so they couldn’t believe that she gets paid to play them,” says Scullion. “They kept saying ‘How can I get that job?’”
Many kids and teens will be zoning out in front of video games this summer, but Scullion says their play becomes more active if they learn how to make the games themselves.
“They start playing them differently, and looking at them more critically,” say Scullion. “It gets them thinking about what they can make, and trying different things.”
“They’re no longer just playing to win — there’s a whole learning process happening.”