Del Mar Union School District operates summer camps so full of kids that the camps are bigger than any school in the district. With 518 in Children's Creative Workshop and 435 in the district summer camp, nearly every room in Ashley Falls School is playing host to the 953 campers, who are all at work mastering the xylophone, painting a birdhouse or singing and dancing the "Tootie Ta" song.
Most of the classroom floors are covered in blue tarp to protect the tile being splashed with the paint and clay, which is so playfully and generously being used.
For three hours each day, campers are submerged in fun. Some educational stuff occasionally sneaks in, but the camps are mostly about exercising creativity and exploring imaginations.
The Children's Creative Workshop (CCW) has been a part of the district for 28 years. It was originally started by a group of parents in the community who had concerns that there were no fine arts being taught in the school. Since then, of course, the extended studies curriculum has picked up some of the slack. This group of parents ran the camp until five years ago, when the director Madilyn Kawasaki died. At that point Charlene Komosinski, the district's director of child care/after school programs, went to the school board to ask that it be continued. She has happily run the camp every year since.
"We have just awesome classes," said Komosinski, who has been with the district for 20 years. "It's just been a great thing, I'm really better for being able to direct CCW. It's a big highlight of my year."
The camp is completely funded by parents' paid tuition and is open to students outside the district. Every year they have students from all over the country. Some are enrolled while they are on summer vacations with family.
The camp T-shirt is designed each year by the screenprinting class. Screenprinting instructor Dale McCloud, who teaches at San Dieguito Academy during the regular school year, said this year's shirt is all about speed and flight with everything from flying robots, to cats with wings-there's even a flying piece of pizza.
Local resident Ruth Pyszcynski helped make a beautiful quilt stitching together the artwork of 20-plus years of camp T-shirts.
McCloud is enjoying spending his summer break with elementary-school kids.
"They're more earnest," said McCloud. "High school kids have to be cool and keep their passion a little more hidden."
Here, that passion is boldly on display, with his young charges eager to show off what they're working on.
The Children's Creative Workshop runs for four weeks and each day is split up into two sessions and kids get to pick and choose which two activities to take part in.
Every room in the school is more impressive than the next. In one, children are learning photography, in another class called "Konichiwa Kids," students are learning the basics of the Japanese language, art and calligraphy.
In a class called "Googly-eyed Pets and Puppets," kids are making animals out of painted rocks: Ladybugs, turtles, mice and even panda bears. In book arts class, kids make a different kind of book every day. They create their own covers, write their own stories and do all their own bindings.