The Crucible offers area kids a fiery breed of summer camp
on April 11, 2011
If the words “summer camp” conjure up memories of sweating in a gaggle of whiny, Popsicle-covered kids, you’ll be happy to know the children of Oakland have a hipper option. The Crucible, a nonprofit school specializing in industrial arts, is kicking off its sixth season of spring and summer youth programs with classes in subjects like blacksmithing, welding, robotics, and glass blowing.
The Crucible’s youth program runs all year, with afterschool options, weekend classes and field trips that are open to all, but free for school-year class visits from Oakland public schools. One-time classes start at $90 for a three-hour session, and go up from there.
In the warmer months, longer programs just for kids bring new life to the cavernous warehouse space. For two weeks in the spring, and four weeks in the summer, children as young as eight can attend morning and afternoon sessions in robotics, wood-working, and ceramics, among other subjects. Kids 12 and up can attend classes that involve fire, like welding. The classes either run from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., or 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week—kids who take both morning and afternoon classes can stay and enjoy lunch and recess in between the sessions.
“In the summer, the floodgates are open and this whole place is humming with children and young adults,” said welding instructor Maurice Cavness. “I get inspired by a lot of the kids’ work. They jump right into it.”
“I think that it’s really fun for me to teach young adults, because as you grow up, and you have to pay bills and do all this other adult stuff, you start making constructs that don’t allow you to be as creative as you could be,” said Cavness. “Young adults seem to be able to use the creative side of their brain and the mathematical side together.”
The Crucible held its first camp last week, and offered five days of classes to a small group of kids. Twelve teenaged students from the Drew School in San Francisco learned welding during a specialized week in their curriculum that allows them to venture off campus for five days before spring break. Students took both MIG (metal inert gas) and TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding—MIG is used for more sculptural pieces, and is easier to pick up than the precise art of TIG welding, which is used for work on bicycles and motorcycles—under the supervision of The Crucible’s experienced staff.
Only three days into the program, the Drew students in the MIG class were welding like pros. They sat in cubbies, heads down, joining together pieces of metal they found in the scrap pile outside. Their faces were shielded from the sparks by big plastic hoods, and they wore protective gloves and jackets. Each student worked on a metal sculpture of a monster, which was the theme for the week.
Ian, a 16-year-old junior from Drew, was at The Crucible for a third consecutive year of welding. “I really enjoy it,” he said, as he worked on his monsters googly, floating metal eyes. “I think it’s fun to go out into the scrap yard and find a piece of metal and picture how it would look cool as something, and then come back and try to make what you want.”
Down the hall, another group of students from several different schools shaped metal in the blacksmithing studio. Instructor Brian Buono supervised as they heated metal pieces in roaring forges in the middle of the room, and then shaped them with heavy hammers. By the end of the week, each student will have made a spoon, a fork, and a bracelet.
Like Cavness, Buono appreciates working with kids because of their uninhibited approach to art. “There’s nothing that has been told to them like, ‘You can’t do that. You can’t make metal go that direction,’” said Buono. “They don’t have that block that adults have, where they have preconceived notions of how things are supposed to work. Kids are more open and they end up making some really, really cool stuff.”
The Crucible’s second spring camp starts April 18, and coincides with OUSD’s spring break. The spring and summer camp classes vary in price from $200-$500 for a week of classes, but the Crucible can offer financial assistance to some of its youth program students. “About one third of our campers get scholarships,” said Assistant Youth Program Manager Ismael Plasencia. “For every two students that we can get who can pay, it provides an opportunity for someone who can’t.”
This summer, the Crucible will offer ten 15 and up-year-olds positions working alongside instructors as youth interns. They’ll each make a cool $1,000, and for the last two weeks of camp, they act as teaching assistants. They only requirement for potential interns, Plasencia says, is that they have taken at least two classes in their discipline of interest. Applications are welcome through April 22.
More information on all The Crucible’s youth programs and internships is available on its Web site.
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