One summer when I was still in university, I was a camp instructor at Chicopee Ski Club. I taught the fundamentals of mountain biking, tennis, dodgeball and low ropes.

Fun fact: the only black eye I’ve ever received was from a competitive five-year-old who head-butted me as I leaned down to catch a stray ball in dodgeball.

I loved introducing kids — many of whom regarded video games as their main interest — to outdoor sports and activities they had never tried before.

This summer, I wish I could be a counsellor again. Agnes Niewiadomski has launched Mindful Makers, a camp for children ages 7-14.

Niewiadomski is well known in the Waterloo Region maker community. We first chatted with her in the spring of 2014, as she and fellow makers designed the first Joan Euler Order of the Creative Mind Award.

Makers use technology and arts and crafts to create new and play or tinker with existing designs and products.

Niewiadomski, a trained artist who studied sculpture at the Ontario College of Art and Design, has designed and led huge projects. These range from the five-foot KerPlunk game commissioned by the City of Kitchener, to her butter sculpture of King Bob the Minion, which was entered in the 2015 Canadian National Exhibition.

She has been a maker for as long as she can remember, exploring arts, crafts, tools and materials.

“I wanted to be an artist since I was little,” Niewiadomski said.

Her degree in sculpture forced her to experiment with different materials. Today, while she still sculpts in a wide range of media (from fibre to pumpkins and butter) her passion is inspiring others to learn how to make.

Niewiadomski launched Mindful Makers to help children learn how to play and experiment.

The summer camp will run weekly for the nine weeks of summer holiday. The five-day camp introduces campers to a range of hands-on maker skills such as sewing, soldering, 3D-printing and mould-making.

Campers learn two new skills a day. Their making adventures culminate with an arcade game each of them make for the family open house on the Friday of each week.

The camp is structured to compliment the balanced school day that school-aged children follow. That means there is a balance of indoor and outdoor time, as well as plenty of activities broken up with nutrition breaks. Children should come home tired at the end of the day!

Campers keep everything they make, including their game. For Niewiadomski, success doesn’t mean week after week of perfectly working games. Her main goal is to introduce children to a DIY mentality, and give them the confidence to experiment.

“It’s not about the outcome, but the experience,” she said. “You need to learn how to explore and invent in your life.”

Registration is still open. The camp costs $259 weekly — all materials included.

While Niewiadomski has designed this camp for children, she has had a lot of interest from adults looking for maker-based activities of their own.

Could adult-based camps be next? That’s one camp I’d register for!


It’s only six weeks until kids are out of school and enjoying the summer break? Now is the time to sign up for all of those camps. I see and hear . . . Want some feedback on your creative work? Behance, the online platform for displaying creative work and portfolios, hosts a local portfolio review tonight at Vidyard (300 - 119 King St. W., Kitchener). The free event begins at 6:30 p.m. and allows you to present your portfolio of work to your community and guests. Registration is required . . . More Than Half and Legacy Greens have partnered to celebrate World Fair Trade Day. On Saturday May 14, More Than Half (8 King St. E., Kitchener) will host a free celebration noon – 4 p.m. The day will include activities, a henna artist and fair-trade prizes…