At Sawyer we have the privilege of working with hundreds of inspiring educators around the country. Whether they teach virtual classes or in-person activities, the curricula always foster enriching atmospheres for children of all ages to discover their love of learning. We got the opportunity to chat with Luciana Toyos Gambarino, the founder of Casa Lu Art Space, which offers art, cooking, and Spanish immersion after school activities and camps to children in Brooklyn, NY.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! I’d love to hear a bit more about you and why you started your business.

When my son was young, I struggled to find programs that made sense for him. I was looking for creative and fun but I was also looking for Spanish immersion. That's what really sparked it for me. And I've always been passionate about teaching children as well as cooking and the arts. In a way, Casa Lu made complete sense. It combines all these elements in one space, giving kids a real variety of creative outlets with Spanish content as a backdrop.

Photo of Casa Lu Art Space

Can you describe an inspiring moment you’ve had as an educator?

The pandemic. Even though it was a difficult time for the world, I discovered how important and precious it was to keep small groups of kids or “learning pods.” Children could cook, produce art, and engage with in-person experiences while being safe. I realized how priceless an educator's role is in a kid’s life.

What’s the most rewarding thing about teaching children?

I'm giving kids something that's valuable for their lives. It's a diverse community with a different language as its base. I'm giving them skills and experiences that they can then take into the rest of their lives. For example, I teach sewing and I have a kid who has graduated now and every time there is a person born into her family, she makes a quilt for that baby. To me, this is more like a family setting, where ideas and skills (baking, cooking, art and art appreciation) are given as life lessons.

What’s one time a child surprised you and made your day?

Every single day. I had a kid who on his first day asked me 'until when can I come to Casa Lu? Can I come here when I'm in high school, what about college?' I love when I ask them, what is your favorite day of the week, and they reply, 'on the days when I come to Casa Lu.' But it's more than that. I love when a kid comes full of creative energy and connects with the projects and experience.

Photo of art classes for kids

Why is after school/extracurricular enrichment and camp so crucial for children?  

When children are given the space to express their interests, they are more available and connected to their creative source, which allows them to fully engage. They connect immediately with themselves and what’s needed to complete their project. They learn to be more confident in their creative interests. They’re also immersed in an experience with a group of children that is new to them. This opens a portal to make new friends and explore being themselves in a more relaxed environment. Usually in camp, by day two, the groups become best friends.

Children will often come hungry and tired from a long, structured day at school. As soon as we start a class, they see the possibilities and become instantly energized about getting started. Then they just go and make the magic happen!

How do you think children can discover their passions when not in school or your programs?

That's easy. Children are always curious to learn new things and keep exploring their knowledge. They just need to have the space and freedom to find those outlets to keep exploring and growing their passions.

Photo of kids art classes

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