Brianna Dorney sat at a table in the Arts@Large studio showing a visitor a colorful children’s book produced by K5 and first-grade students at Hampton Elementary School. Called “The ABCs of Milwaukee,” the book includes drawings and photos taken by the students.
The project gave students the opportunity to research the city and pick cultural treasures and iconic businesses that represent Milwaukee to them. In the book, “A” is for the Milwaukee Art Museum. “E” is for ethnic fests, represented by leprechauns and tribal head dresses, along with the words “fun,” “dance” and “sing.”
“We bring arts and learning experiences into the classroom,” said Dorney, communications specialist for Arts@Large, which primarily serves students from low-income families. “We think making the local connections will really help students. … We want them not just to read a book.”
The “ABC” book is part of a new Arts@Large project, “There’s No Place Like Home: Milwaukee.” The initiative incorporates issues of race, segregation and homelessness into the curriculum of five Milwaukee public schools. Participating schools include 81st Street School, Bruce Elementary School, Hampton Elementary School, Hayes Bilingual School and Washington High School.
The two-year project offers age-appropriate activities for students in K3 through 12th grade. Elementary schools might do projects such as comparing different types of Native American architecture, while high school students could analyze the effect of highway systems on African-American neighborhoods.
Students also can choose their own class project. For example, Dorney said, if a class is passionate about the subject of bullying, the students could create a project at their school around that issue and then expand it to include other MPS schools.
No Place Like Home also gives students access to local artists, professionals, museums and higher education institutions to help them on their projects, which focus on four subtopics: peacemaking, eco-literacy, civil rights and “CREATE”—the process of exhibiting and performing student work.
The civil rights projects, for example, unite the arts and education through programs such as Freedom EXPRESSion, which allowed students to recreate the freedom rides of the civil rights era by taking their own pilgrimage to Jackson, Miss. Students also visited historic civil rights landmarks such as the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Ala.
Students also work on service projects. Recently Golda Meir Gifted and Talented School’s seventh-grade class worked with Serve2Unite to hold a coat drive for the homeless a service-learning project tied to the subtopic of peacemaking.
The project, whose lead funder is the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund, will culminate with art exhibitions in conjunction with Milwaukee’s Gallery Night on April 25-26 at Gallery@Large, 908 S. 5th St.Did you like this story? Subscribe to NNS today.