SHARP Literacy Inc., a southeastern Wisconsin-based arts and
SHARP Literacy helps K4 through fifth grade students build reading, writing and researching skills by using the visual arts as the primary tool for learning. The goal of the arts-integrated program is to help reduce the achievement gap Milwaukee-area students face. Currently, only 15% of third grade students in the City of Milwaukee demonstrate reading proficiency on the state-administered reading assessment, making Milwaukee one of the lowest performing cities in the country. Those results are even more alarming considering that reading proficiently by the end of 3rd grade is a determining factor in a child’s long term academic success. According to recent post-assessment scores, student performance gains on the SHARP Assessment averaged 25-30 percentage points from the pre- to post-assessment in 2016-17.
SHARP is currently in 39 Milwaukee and Waukesha County schools serving more than 8,500 elementary school students. As a privately funded, non-profit organization, SHARP Literacy offers its arts-based program at no cost to the schools. Currently, no other program like SHARP Literacy exists that is fully funded and offered at no cost to participating schools and students. Programming cost is $104 per student per school year.
More than 1,200 students in 12 schools are on a waiting list to bring SHARP Literacy’s programs to their classrooms. To meet current waiting list needs alone, SHARP needs to raise more than $124,800. Ultimately, the more that can be raised, the more students SHARP can serve, as well as continuing to add new programs in the future. To continue offering SHARP Literacy’s programs, more funding is needed, which is the reason SHARP Literacy is reaching out publicly for the first time to all Milwaukee and Waukesha County-area businesses and additional donors. Eighty-two percent of the funds that are raised go toward SHARP Literacy programs.
“The need to bring SHARP’s programs into more schools is our greatest challenge,” said Lynda Kohler, SHARP Literacy president and CEO.” To bring more students into the program, we need to find additional donors who believe in our mission.”
With continued cuts in school arts programs, SHARP Literacy has seen a significant demand for and growth in enrollment. SHARP Literacy has seen a 45 percent increase in enrollment in the past three years and has added six schools this year. While the state’s recent budget for 2017-19 included the largest increase in per pupil aid for education, an increase in arts education was not included in the budget recommendations.
In addition, this year Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) has committed bringing an integrated arts program into all MPS schools for the 2017-18 school year with its new “Year of the Arts Initiative.” The goal of the initiative is to be sure that every student is afforded quality arts opportunities.
SHARP provides hands-on learning experiences to 4K through fifth grade students, reaching and positively impacting students in the most at-risk schools. Programs serve a diverse urban Milwaukee and Waukesha student population that is 53% African-American, 29% Hispanic, 9% Caucasian, 6% Asian, and 3% other ethnicities. Through the use of classroom-supported
“Through SHARP Literacy’s programs, we strive to give our children better futures,” added Kohler. “But to do that, we need help from area donors and to establish additional corporate partnerships to bring more educational and learning experiences to our community’s children.”
An example of an interactive, hands-on unique learning experience that SHARP Literacy offers second grade students is an upcoming Discovery World tour on Monday, December 4.
“Through Discovery World’s collaboration with SHARP Literacy, we have been able to connect two areas of great need – literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education – for hundreds of second grade students in our community,” said Joel Brennan, CEO at Discovery World. “By working together and uniting Discovery World learning labs with important vocabulary terms, Discovery World and SHARP are opening the eyes of these young people to the Great Lakes and the opportunities that await them through literature and interactive education in the years to come. Our partnership is just one example of how SHARP Literacy collaborates with other community partners to put more young people on a path to being better and stronger readers, students and community members in the years to come. The work of SHARP Literacy is critically important in Milwaukee and Discovery World is a proud partner in their efforts.”
The tour at Discovery World is comprised of three sessions that take approximately 25 minutes each. The first part of the tour, called “The Life of a Salmon,” takes place in the Freshwater Sustainability Lab. During this section, students will draw a freshwater habitat where salmon may live, and will learn about other critters that live in freshwater. The vocabulary words used in this section include “freshwater,” “habitat,” and “horizon.”
The second session is titled “Great Lakes Past and Present” and takes place in the Great Lakes Future exhibit. Students will take a visit in a time machine to learn about the formation of the Great Lakes, learn about the water cycle and see a simulated thunder storm in the exhibits to demonstrate the water cycle. Students will then see a sculpture based upon life on the Great Lakes and discuss the sculpture’s imagery. The vocabulary words used in this section are “glacier,” “Great Lakes,” “movement,” “water cycle,” and “sculpture.”
The final session takes place in the Discovery World Reiman Aquarium. Students will take a tour of the aquarium to observe the various fish that live in salt and freshwater. Along the way, students will observe the various movements that fish make, the components of their habitat, and also pet several types of fish. Then, students will view and reflect upon an underwater life mosaic art piece. The words used in this section are “movement,” “Great Lakes,” “habitat,” and “freshwater.”
SHARP welcomes anyone interested in finding out more about their programs or considering a contribution to help it expand its programming, businesses looking to partner with SHARP, or individual donors wishing to donate, call 414.977.1768 or visit the website at www.sharpliteracy.org.