Commentary: Bring Back the Art Projects

Emily Beiter

I don’t remember much about elementary school. I remember my teachers and some bigger events, but for the most part it’s just a blur of recess and spelling words. But what I do remember is after school care—which I attended up until I started sixth grade. Despite growing to hate it as I got older and thought I was “too cool” for daycare, a majority of my fondest memories from those years happened after school.

For those of you who were bus riders or car riders, let me give you the rundown of after school care. Most of it is spent doing hamma beads (you know, the little plastic beads you put on a template and then iron it and they stick together) and other various art projects, and playing outside on the playground. Most of the “teachers” are high school and college kids—but of course to you, they seem about 30. While all of you got to go home and do homework, I got to do cool art projects and play with my friends for an extra two hours.

I started working at Sunflower’s after school care program last week, where I attended elementary school. While it would be boring to just summarize the experience, here’s some highlights that sum it up quite nicely:

  • A kindergartener pretending to be a cat licked my arm, and when I told him that was gross, he just meowed
  • One first grade boy said to another, “Hey, wanna fight?” and after the other boy said yes, they proceeded to legitimately fight— and no, not just kind of waving their arms around, flat out wrestling and punching each other
  • I let a first grade girl play on my phone and I came back to 200 pictures, all posed shots of her and her friends
  • When the kids attempted to guess my age, I’ve gotten everything from 13 to 34

Now, while these kids are adorable and amusing and everything, all I can think about while I’m working is, “Was I really like that at this age?” Did I bicker with my friends as much over something as simple as who gets to be the mom in house, and was I as annoying and whiney as one of the fifth grade girls who proclaimed, “This place is worse than prison!”?

There’s so much that I appreciate about elementary school that I did not care about or even dislike while it was happening. As I finish high school, I’d give anything to be able to spend my time doing mindless art projects and playing make believe games with friends I no longer talk to. While ideally, I wouldn’t spend my after school hours getting licked and having first graders pull on my hair, there’s something about the innocence and imagination of children that bring back the happy nostalgia of the halls that once seemed so big.

I just want art back.