Taking Back-to-School Beyond The Classroom

More Than Modeling

More Than Modeling School teaches life skills and real-world tools

By Laura Madden

August is back-to-school month in Arizona! While many of us may be focusing on back-to-school shopping to prepare our children for the new year, what about the intangible, like life skills, social skills and life management tools that can equip our children to thrive both in and out of the classroom? 

Preparing Children for the Real World

Most people would agree that we want to do all we can to prepare our children for the real world. Introducing More Than Modeling, a modeling school founded by Arizona transplant, model and former school teacher, Erika Mash, that teaches essential life skills to children ages 5-16 in Scottsdale. Originally from York, England, Mash always knew she wanted to live in the U.S., continuing her career as a model. What she didn’t always know was that her biggest dream was teaching others everything she’s learned from modeling that she wished she knew herself. 

For the past year, the More Than Modeling curriculum has been taught whenever there is a school break—until now. Now, More Than Modeling is also becoming an after-school enrichment program at the Scottsdale JCC.  

In my interview with Erika, I learned that More Than Modeling picks up where most school curriculums leave off, and uses modeling (something fun and exciting for many young girls) as the vehicle to teach life skills and tools that children will benefit from for a lifetime, no matter what career endeavor they may pursue. 

What exactly do you teach in your More Than Modeling camps?

I teach essential life skills using modeling to connect and engage children, to make the learning fun for them. Depending on the camp (each one has a different theme), we cover everything from self-confidence, self-esteem, empathy and social skills to skin care, hygiene, dining etiquette, to environmental consciousness, sustainability, upcycling clothing, and even geography, budgeting and finances. These are all skills I’ve learned from my years in modeling and they apply to much of life aside from modeling, as well. 

Sharing the message of sustainability, especially with our clothing, is a large part of More Than Modeling’s mission. In many of the camps, secondhand clothing and remnant fabrics are used to re-make runway looks—all constructed by the girls themselves. They also learn jewelry-making skills utilizing items that would otherwise be considered trash—anything from egg cartons, bottle caps, loose beads and “odds and ends.” More Than Modeling places great value in upcycling and making something new from thrifted and found objects. Starving the landfill however we can is something we all can benefit from in today’s fast-paced throwaway culture.

What is the most fulfilling part of the job?

Confidence! And to see a child transform over the course of the week and to see a shy kid come out of their shell [on the runway].

Is there a theme you are looking forward to teaching next?

Yes. I’ve been getting many requests for a TV hosting camp. It is very important—not just in modeling, but in life—to learn presentation and speaking skills and interviewing skills. [Also], how to be interviewed. These are professional skills we all need today. I will teach anything a parent requests for a private class—those are completely bespoke.  

What is your dream for the future of More Than Modeling?

To help as many kids as possible. To grow my reach and get more people and industries involved. The most important thing I do is teaching children how to believe in themselves. 

To learn more, visit www.morethanmodeling.com.

Laura Madden is a sustainable fashion advocate, influencer, stylist and model who reports on the intersection of style, sustainability and self-esteem on both her blog, the ReFashion Report, and various conscious style publications. Laura also serves as a global ambassador for non-profit Remake, a board member with San Francisco Fashion Community Week, and is co-founder of AZ Sustainable Fashion. For more sustainable style and shopping tips, check out www.iamlauramadden.com and follow her on Instagram @iamlauramadden.

Photos by More Than Modeling

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