Construction paper, glue, and markers will keep kids entertained for hours, but these supplies were merely the rudimentary materials available for use at the Bunch Family Salon on Sunday afternoon. On top of those fundamentals, the five hundred youngsters and their oh-so-intrigued parents who attended were provided with laptops, digital cameras, stuffed toys, and so much more so that they could both build and think about unique aspects of their city.
The Salon literally took over OCAD. In the Great Hall, kids built their own cities (which sometimes evolved into swamps and castles) out of twigs, construction paper, dirt, shredded paper, coloured tissue paper, and wood shavings. Next to this, an obstacle course pitted teams of two against each other in a race to find the staples of a city (i.e. the library, the bank, and the grocery store) inside a small maze. Torontoist was in the Hall, too, interviewing and photographing the kids who had enough courage to talk to us, and, thanks to Yahoo!, a number of digital cameras were also handed out to some youngsters and their parents so that they could snap whatever they found interesting at the event. (A few—just a few—of those photos accompany this article; you can see plenty more on Bunch’s Flickr.)
Down the hall, Learning Through the Arts set up computers that let the kids build soundscapes that mimicked what they hear in the city; their laptops were pre-loaded with stock sounds such as rain, and their built-in mics allowed the kids to record their own voices into the mixes. It was hard to tell who was more interested: the kids, because they could hear their own creations, or the parents, who couldn’t believe how easy it was to put something like this together. And just when the kids thought it couldn’t get any cooler, their mixes were played over the speakers in the Great Hall after they saved their work in iTunes (Generation i is coming!).
The second floor also housed the Idea Factory Playground. The room was plastered with a set of thought-provoking questions around its perimeter, and youngsters were encouraged to respond on Post-it–style notes that they stuck to the walls. The ideas were both interesting and adorable, and they sometimes made you wonder if the kids were being profound or just plain silly. Responding to “What is a city?” some kids answered “A creation” and “A big place that people live in,” and their answers to “What is public art?” included “Math” and “Art you can climb on.” But the cutest answer award goes to the child (quite possibly Luke) who responded “Mummys work” to “What is a safe building?” In addition to those questions, the Playgound also provided Plasticine that was used to build trees, and straws and connectors were available in the middle of the room so that the kids could build unique structures. It was in the latter activity that the boundary between parent and kid was the most blurred, as the adults (particularly dads) got right in there with their hands, even when the little ones stopped paying attention.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, activities on the main floor provided for even more creativity. Examples included a station set up in the lobby where kids thought of city names (“Peter Plan,” “Sarahtopia,” and “Yum Yum Town”) and designed corresponding city signs, dance and drama activities that had the kids create a tableau of a city scene (like a snap shot of the corner of Yonge and Dundas), and a large arts and crafts area for building mobiles and functioning windmills. When you sat back and took it all in, it made you realize how perceptive and in tune with their city kids really are—unless, of course, you’re a parent and you hear about these perceptions all day, every day.
By the end of the afternoon, exhaustion may have set in for the adults, but the kids appeared just as enthused as when they first arrived. Much of this excitement can be attributed to the enthusiasm of everyone who helped out at the event (especially the volunteers stationed at each of the activities, who knew how to work with kids and found ways to get them to articulate their ideas in a number of mediums). In no small part because of their help, declaring the event a success would be an understatement. If only it had been around when we were younger.
Photos courtesy of Bunch Family Salon.