Five Fun Summer Projects For Your Jobless Teen
June 13, 2011
by Lauren Daley
New Bedford Standard-Times
Well, you knew it was coming, moms and dads.
School is almost out.
Oh, the horror.
This time of year can be the trickiest for parents who contemplate the long, long, long days of summer ahead with a combination of joy and dread - perhaps mostly dread for the parents of teens.
See, a decade ago, Mom and Dad could have told their teen to get off the couch and get a job.
But the summer job market is downright dismal for teenagers this year.
Last summer, jobs for teens were the scarcest since 1949, according to government figures, and this summer isn't shaping up any better. So what do you do with your teen who can't find work?
Unplug the Xbox. Log off Facebook. Forget the mall.
Here are five fruitful projects your teen can tackle this summer.
MAKE A MOVIE
With J.J. Abram's "Super 8" in theaters this weekend, there's never been a trendier time to introduce home-movie- making to teens.
Long gone are the days of needing an actual Super 8 mm camera, or even a camcorder, to make your own films - you'd be hard pressed to find a cell phone or digital camera without video capabilities nowadays.
If your teen has an iPhone or other smart phone, there are some great movie-making apps available - iMovie is $4.99, 8mm vintage camera is $1.99, iVideo Camera is $.99; Qik Video is free.
Of course, you don't need an app to make a movie - just flip your camera or phone to video mode and lights, camera, action! Let those teenage brains start churning.
"With cell phones and cameras, making movies has never been easier," says Ron Leone, film professor at Stonehill College in Easton. "The hard part is having an interesting story to tell."
Writing - whether it's a fully explored essay or a creative screenplay - is an invaluable skill for teens, especially those who will take the MCAS or SATs next school year.
Let your teen invite some friends over to storyboard a film, write a script, appoint actors and a director, etc.
"It's great for kids to express themselves and create something meaningful," Leone says.
"Kids are used to YouTube videos that are curiosities - a person falling down or a cute animal doing something - but that's not narrative," he says. "The challenge posed to them in film-making is that they need a full story arc, with a beginning, middle and end, and they need to develop interesting characters that an audience will care about."
Plus, you never know. Your kid just might be the next Spielberg.
"There's a great history of all kinds of great filmmakers who start on home movies. It's not that unusual for that to happen," Leone says.
PLANT A GARDEN
If you have yard space, give your teen a plot of land to work.
You can buy seeds at any local greenhouse or grocery store produce section, from watermelons to tomatoes, lavender to lemon mint.
Have them do some research to decide what to plant and how to plant it - www.weekendgardener.net is a good place to start.
-A plot to make wide rows, about 3 feet wide by 5 feet long.
-Enough rich compost to cover the plot by 2 or 3 inches.
-Seeds and fertilizer.
-Access to water.
-Rake, trowels, hoes and, if possible, a tiller.
Gardening not only gets teens outside with their hands in the earth, but they can gain a sense of accomplishment as they see their produce or flowers growing.
And, of course, nothing is tastier - or more satisfying - than a homegrown tomato.
START A BOOK CLUB
Book clubs are amazing avenues for teens in a number of ways - they're reading, they're thinking critically, they're being social and they're having fun.
When kids start their own book clubs, the greatest part is that they get to read exactly what they want to read.
Do the teens want to discuss "The Hunger Games" trilogy over some dark-chocolate-dipped strawberries? Fine. Encourage club members to make their own snacks, maybe something tied into the book, if it lends itself. And healthy (well, you can always try).
"Reading is like travel - it opens new worlds, takes you new places, exposes you to new people, adds interest to your life," said Mimi Powell, the young adult book buyer for Baker Books in Dartmouth.
"Book clubs are such a great way for teens to spend their time, once they find the book that's right for them," Powell says.
Check with your local library, bookstore or Young Adult Library Services Association at www.ala.org/yalsa for reading suggestions.
START A FILM CLUB
In the same vein, teens can stay busy on long summer days by starting a film appreciation club with their friends.
It's a great way to get them to shut off "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and get them discussing classic cinema.
"The interesting thing that can happen with a film club is there are films kids can get introduced to, movies that weren't necessarily created in the last five years," Leone says.
He recommends Mike Nichols' "The Graduate" (1967) as "the kind of movie that could introduce kids to cinema in an interesting way."
Consider movies on the American Film Institute's Top 100 - "Chinatown," "Casablanca," the original "Star Wars," "The Maltese Falcon" and "E.T." are all great places to start.
"By starting a film appreciation club, kids can get more insight into what is arguably the most important medium of the 20th century and, I would say, the most complex medium out there," Leone says.
"If you stop to watch the credits, they don't go on for five minutes by accident. It takes a lot of people to work towards a single goal collectively. That's a great lesson for kids. When you get a deeper understanding of the collaborative nature of film, you get a lesson in teamwork."
Leone suggests having teens research and print information on each film from the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) to discuss facts about the film afterwards.
"Good films are never just about entertainment," Leone says. "They always make you think."
Teens with a flair for books, film and writing can combine those interests by starting their own blogs and sharing their thoughts with other readers. Check out blogger.com to learn about blogging and how to set up your own account.
With twin 17-year-old boys, Lee Heald of Mattapoisett knows better than most moms how to keep teens busy.
"At this age, in this job market, the best route is to have them create their own small job, like dog-walking or lawn-mowing for extra income, or to have them volunteer, so they can add it to their resume or college application."
Her boys attended YMCA camp until they were 14. Since then, they've been volunteering, Heald says.
"Last year, they mowed lawns for spending money. Also, for the last five years, they've volunteered as water quality monitors for the Coalition for Buzzards Bay. It's neat for kids to see the practical application of science. They both did very well on their chemistry SAT II exams, and I think it's because they had the real-world practice."
Heald adds that "most churches have lists of elderly people who need help around the yard and house." She says her boys shovel snow for the elderly people on her church list in the winter.
The New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park is always looking for teen volunteers to lead walking tours and march in parades, or to do graphic design work, office work and accounting.
"This year we also have the National Park Apprentice Program, where teens will be trained to implement education programs for younger kids," says Frank Barrows, chief of interpretation and education for the historical park.
Barrows says teens can also help out with summer camps for young children, and stay on as volunteers during the school year for after-school programs - a great resume-builder.
This is what we call good ol' fashioned summer stuff:
Get your kids off the sofa and out in the ball field, tennis court or in the water.
From riding a bike to pickup games of baseball or touch football or Frisbee, there is no downside to exercise and fresh air.
If athletics aren't your teen's strong suit, there are other ways to get them outside having fun. One option is a neighborhood scavenger hunt, with a twist. Instead of hunting down and dragging back items from a list, teens can take a photo of scavenger items on their cell phone.
Introduce teens to the games you once played - capture the flag, anyone? Why not recapture the fun of summer yourself, Mom and Dad, and join in?
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.