Summer camps in Santa Maria focus on art and writing

Posted in: Santa Maria Sun, Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum


You’re a pirate, rocking back and forth as your ship hits a storm, trying to make shore and look for your treasure. You’re on a rocket ship and you meet a giant alien. You’re a deep-sea diver and you find a magic city underwater.

Arts Gets Creative: The Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum has a variety of summer camps focused on creativity and imagination, including a class led by artist-in-residence Jill Iversen (pictured). Photo by Rebecca Rose

These imaginary adventures are the kinds of situations children could find themselves in during the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum’s Pyjama Drama summer camp, one of the camps taking place throughout July and August at the museum.

“After speaking with them, they just clicked exactly with what I wanted,” she said. “They have incredible original music and games.”Pyjama Drama is for children 5 to 7 years of age, and features drama and play centered on creative expression and activity. Sarah Rijnen is the local director of Pyjama Drama. She was a first-grade teacher with a degree in drama and worked on her own program focused on creative play. As she was researching ideas she came across Pyjama Drama, which is based in the United Kingdom.

Rijnen said the program’s structure allows children to become comfortable in the setting and to know what to expect. That results in an explosion of imaginative ideas and creation, she explained.

“There was a need for preschoolers, specifically,” she said. “There’s not a lot of theater in the area focused on the experience of creating and not about the product and the outcome.”

Megan Walker leads the camp at the Discovery Museum as the teaching instructor. She previously worked with the Children’s Creative Project teaching drama in public schools.

“I love being with children in this program because there isn’t this inhibition about being graded or being right or wrong,” Walker said. “The children are able to express themselves and be creative. I think it’s good for children who maybe don’t fit into the box of what the school system wants from them.”

“[Children] are going to create an adventure,” Rijnen said. “[They] might build an imaginary rocket ship to fly to the moon. [They] might discover a new underwater creature and invite him home for dinner.”
A typical session in Pyjama Drama involves a lot of moving around (through acting out scenes or ideas), singing, and using the imagination.

Another camp for children ages 8 to 14 is Storytellers, which is led by the Discovery Museum’s artist-in-residence Jill Iversen. Campers create daily art and writing projects, which are then featured in a fair at the end of the camp.

Iversen said that with so many funding cuts to arts and related programs in public schools, it’s important to find other ways to get kids creating and being imaginative. She said the first day introduces children to the mechanics of bookmaking, including making a rough draft, doing thumbnail sketches for book art, and more.

Camping in The Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum is offering four summer camps in 2017. Robotics Camp July 10-14, Maker Lab July 17-21, Storytellers July 24-28, and Pyjama Drama July 31-Aug. 4. More info: 928-8414.

“Every day we will have a new theme,” she said. “At the end of the week we’ll have a whole book we’ve learned to bind. We wanted to show them how to turn it into a final product with images and writing they’ve done themselves.”

Arts and Lifestyle writer Rebecca Rose is a definitely a real pirate. Contact her at

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