Theater people are community oriented. They love to put on free shows and especially to entertain kids. Classes in drama, makeup, costuming and acting are a regular part of a troupe’s activities. There is much time to do this between plays. I love it when the community center holds a camp for children when school is out. The children enjoy the novelty and it is so different from a sports camp. The latter is all about hiking, camping, fishing, swimming, and other forms of outdoor recreation. An arts camp teaches new skills that are not learned in school or during vacation. It is meant to supplement what parents provide at home.

I have helped organize these camps and am often asked to suggest fun things to do. Would the kids like to dance and sing? they ask me. They know that I have experience working with youth. I had a ready answer this time. For camp this year I wanted to see them use a trampoline to build muscles and character, killing two birds with one stone. Mastering a new skill builds confidence and self-esteem. Receiving attention from adults and fellow campers adds to the special nature of the experience. Kids learn to share and take their turns. They use the trampoline in pairs, learning to coordinate their movements without effort. I teach them fun exercises from that build balance and strength. I want them to go home tired but ecstatic.

I work from the very beginning when I explain the trampoline. The kids start with basic jumping up and down before that do tuck jumps in which they bend and pull up their knees. Then comes the seat drop, a very cool way to land on your butt. Twists and turns are for the fearless as are somersaults, pikes, and straddles. If someone is timid, I don’t force him or her. Usually they come around in time.  I showed them how I work out on the trampoline by jumping in a vee position with legs spread and toes pointed. It improves my diving position and also is a great stretch.

After proper training on basic trampoline tricks, I let them go wild and jump as much as they want until they collapse. I quickly bring in the energy drinks and bags of chips and cookies. When the camp schedule dictates another unrelated activity, they ask me when will the trampoline come back. I am flattered by their appreciation and it motivates me to pursue their “athletic” training. At the next session, I was shocked and delighted that one of the quiet kids asked me to watch a demonstration. He proceeded to execute a perfect knee drop. I let him teach the skill to the rest of the group. He beamed with pride. We moved on to another fun group activity: the back drop. Do you remember when you tested a friend’s trust by falling backward, expecting the person to catch you? It is much the same except that the catcher pushes you back up and the exercise is repeated. Every trampoline day was a holiday for these kids.