“This couldn’t have been planned by me,” she smiles as she shakes her head. “The universe is so cool!”
Meg McNamara seems to credit simple serendipity for coming full-circle from once attending Classroom Antics summer tech camps to now teaching Classroom Antics after-school program, and even teaching two of her past teachers’ child. But she also sees her path through Classroom Antics programs as a vital piece of her journey as an artist and teacher.
“It was the best part of my week,” Meg recalls as she describes her experience as a camper at Classroom Antics’ tech camps. She attended the first year of summer camps offered by the organization in 2008, participating in stop-motion and video game design camp.
In stop-motion animation camp, kids learn to create their own stop-motion movies by learning the entire process from storyboarding to capturing to editing. Campers in Brick Flicks camp create multiple stop-motion movies throughout the week using special cameras, green screens, LEGO figures and newly learned video-editing skills.
“Going into the camp, I never thought I’d be able to try digital design, so it was an introduction to those opportunities.” Though Meg remembers camp as a fun experience with her friends, she now recognized the larger role attending a Classroom Antics tech camp played for her future.
“Having things like the stop-motion camp in the summer really helped me to decide what I was passionate about and what I could really see myself doing in the future. It kept me determined to go to arts school despite other voice saying I was not going to make it.” Meg also stayed involved in after-school art clubs and art classes throughout middle and high school.
While Meg followed her passions and attended the Cleveland Institute of Art, it was there that she says she discovered a new interest. She had never imagined teaching as her career, but the chance to teach arts through local school districts as part of her college credit changed her views. It was through this experience that she learned teaching is also a passion of hers. Upon graduating in 2018, Meg began looking for opportunities and happened upon a job post for a position an after-school program instructor.
She immediately recognized the Classroom Antics name, and it was an obvious option for Meg to apply to the position. Aside from previously attending Classroom Antics camps, the fact that it was a STEAM-based (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) position was ideal for her. “It was the fusion of science and the arts curriculum done in a hands-on way that definitely appealed to me,” Meg says.
In Engineering Club, the organization’s after-school program, kids in grades kindergarten through 5th learn engineering concepts from craft-based projects and apply them to life in themed curriculums covering everything from environmental, structural and electrical engineering to communication, biomedical and meteorological engineering.
Since taking the teaching position almost a year ago, Meg has enjoyed multiple aspects of the role. She currently teaches after-school Engineering Club at three schools in Northeast Ohio, and feels lucky that she reaps both the benefits of a part-time schedule and applying her passion in a classroom setting. “I love getting to see the kids’ looks on their faces when they figure out something for themselves… you can almost hear their brains thinking because it’s so quiet. Probably 30 seconds maximum, and then they get really excited,” Meg smiles, “That’s the golden moment.”
Meg recognizes that the benefits of teaching are not just for her. She sees the value that students gain from taking programs like the ones Classroom Antics offers. When teaching, she likes to ask the students if there are other ways to try to come up with solutions for the presented challenge. “I think that’s a great way for them to build problem-solving skills and thinking skills, which is what they need for the rest of their school career and even life career,” she says. “It’s very valuable in that regard.” And when asked about her favorite part of teaching for Classroom Antics, Meg doesn’t skip a beat. “When they’re passionate about what they’re doing. That’s my favorite part – getting to be a part of that.”