Art is the teacher at STEAM camp

Nearly 3,000 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students recently spent part of their school break at the Arts & Science Council’s first STEAM Camp, studying subjects that ranged from learning musical instruments to hand-binding books and using digital cameras.

The STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) camp offered a “free, safe and educational opportunity” to fill portions of fall and spring breaks for students attending the year-round schools.

More than 100 teaching artists from within the community and around the country were hired to work with pre-K to 8th grade students from Bruns Academy, Walter G. Byers School, Druid Hills and Thomasboro Academy at the camp.

Those schools are part of Project LIFT, the local five-year, $55 million public-private effort to significantly improve achievement at West Charlotte High and its feeder schools. Project LIFT provided the funding.

Campers began their day in traditional academic areas such as reading and math. Then they moved to non-traditional programs in theater, dance, music and visual art.

Busing, breakfast and lunch were provided for the students.

ASC officials hope to get grant funding from Project LIFT for future camps, ASC Vice President of Education Barbara Ann Temple said. Temple said literacy learning through the arts empowers students and builds confidence.

“They’ll be able to represent themselves, to speak up.…That confidence carries into the classroom,” Temple said.

Project LIFT’s 2014-15 budget, which will determine which grant partners receive funding, is expected to be completed within the next month.

Each school held a literary festival in early April featuring a 388-page published anthology of student work that participants created during the fall camp session. Students were able to work with artists to create visual and performance art based on some of their own work.

Kimarcus Lockhart, assistant principal at Druid Hills, said learning rhythmic dance and playing the African drums was popular with all ages of students.

“You never know what these activities will do to spark something in a child.”