March is Arts in Our Schools Month across Maryland and the nation. To celebrate, we’re sharing just a few of the wonderful ways that students at Baltimore Curriculum Project (BCP) neighborhood conversion charter schools enjoy an arts education steeped in self-expression and creative joy.

In its report on the Arts and Public Education, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences lauds the value of the arts in helping students discover “meaning and engage in personal reflection and provide comfort in times of crisis.” Visual, performing and literary arts are a catalyst for cultivating diversity, tolerance, and empathy and offering “valuable cognitive, critical thinking, and technical skills.” The arts, the AMAS states (and we’ve long agreed at BCP) can strengthen civic and social ties in communities and inspire children to want to learn more.

“By incorporating arts education into the curriculum in our schools and afterschool programs, BCP schools are able to provide a well-rounded education that focuses on the whole student,” explains Brianna Kaufman, BCP Director of Operations. Ms. Kaufman has a background in museum education, Master’s degree in art education, and has been an elementary art teacher. As such, she has a unique perspective on the value of integrating arts into education and shaping a holistic approach to student development.

“Integrating the arts helps students develop a sense of self-awareness, empathy, and cultural appreciation,” she continues. “I have seen firsthand the positive impact that arts education can have on students. It helps them build confidence, communicate effectively, and think outside the box.”

Every BCP school has a thriving arts curriculum during the school day and in afterschool programs. Here is a sampling of the ways that our students express themselves artistically at BCP schools:

Visual Arts at BCP Schools

BCP students have many opportunities to explore the visual arts across different mediums. Art classes taught by certified art teachers, expose students to various forms of artistic expression such as drawing, painting, sculpting, and more, which helps students develop an appreciation for culture, history, and diverse perspectives through the study of art from various time periods and cultures. By examining and creating art, students gain a deeper understanding of the world around them and learn to interpret and analyze visual information.

Several of our schools have state-of-the-art studio facilities in newly renovated buildings, including at Govans Elementary School, Pimlico Elementary / Middle School, and Frederick Elementary School.

“Through visual art, students can explore complex ideas, make connections between different subject areas, and develop a deeper understanding of the world around them,” adds Ms. Kaufman. “At BCP schools, we see the arts not as a luxury, but a necessity.”

Theater Programs at BCP Schools

Participating in theater offers a range of benefits. Students explore their creativity, express themselves, and step out of their comfort zones in a supportive and encouraging environment. Through acting, singing, dancing, and other performance activities, students can develop valuable public speaking, teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

The Drama club is part of Govans Elementary Schools afterschool program, Dragons After Dismissal. The drama club provides students an opportunity to work together on theatrical productions. Students build strong relationships, support one another’s artistic growth, and learn the importance of collaboration and communication in a creative setting. 

They also develop a deeper appreciation for the arts and cultivate a love for theater and performing arts. Last year, Govans students performed the Lion King and traveled to New York City and attended the Broadway production in person. This year, Govans students are busy getting ready to put on a production of Aladdin in May. Read more about the Lion King. 

Hampstead Hill Academy’s (HHA) theater program for grades 4-8 is well known for its theater productions. Last month, the Hampstead Hill Players put on its 21st annual musical theater production, Legally Blonde, Jr. 

HHA students and parents are involved at every level of the annual production to create a fun, memorable learning and community-building experience.

“The theater provides a unique opportunity for many of our students to be a part of something special,” says HHA Principal Matt Hornbeck. “It comes down to everyone working together. This is the beauty of producing a show. Whether it is through participating in evening and weekend rehearsals, selling tickets, working tech backstage, creating costumes and sets, gathering sponsors, or running errands, things big and small come together to make the show possible.”

Read about Mairead Palmer, HHA Class of 2020, who was part of every HHA production while a student. She’s graduating this May from Baltimore School of the Arts and plans to study theater production in college.

Frederick Elementary School’s (FES) Theater Club students are working on a skit on self-esteem titled “Who AM I” to be performed at the Closing Showcase this May. Janikka Simms, who manages Frederick’s afterschool activities, explains, “Theater encourages students to communicate ideas, emotions, and messages effectively through speech, gestures, facial expressions, collaboration, empathy and understanding. They learn to articulate thoughts clearly and express themselves with confidence.” 

Music at BCP Schools

BCP schools have thriving instrumental music programs. The National Institute of Health and other researchers have long studied the impact of music on the brain to create new neural pathways. Young musicians develop musical skills and improve their cognitive abilities, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills through music education. They gain discipline, perseverance, and self-confidence, too, as they work towards mastering new skills and pieces of music.

City Springs Elementary / Middle School, Hampstead Hill Academy, and Pimlico Elementary / Middle School all provide opportunities,as part of the instructional school day curriculum, for students to explore their musical talents and interests, learn to play instruments, and participate in ensemble performances. These classes play a crucial role in fostering students’ passion for music, creativity, and personal development.

Robust afterschool arts programs at Frederick Elementary, Govans Elementary and Wolfe Street Academy include a focus on music. At Wolfe Street, students enjoy instruction in keyboard and violin (strings), an invaluable opportunity to engage with music education outside of regular school hours and explore their artistic talents and interests. Govans also offer string music lessons as part of their afterschool program. 

FES’s afterschool bucket drumming program gives students K to 5th grade the chance to explore West African rhythms of Kuku and Wolosodon. In bucket drumming, the students are introduced to rhythm percussion, call and response, creativity, motor skills, teamwork, cultural appreciation, focus and concentration.

Dance at BCP Schools

Dance programs at BCP are typically offered as part of the school’s extracurricular activities and play a vital role in promoting students’ physical fitness, creativity, self-confidence, and overall well-being. 

FES’ Dance Club students are working on African and Jazz dance pieces. Through dance, students also learn valuable life skills through regular practice and commitment essential for mastering dance techniques and routines. 

Wolfe Street Academy’s After School Dance Club has been utilizing Hip-Hop and African Dance to bring awareness to cultural influences on dance genres, cultivate self-confidence, teamwork, and enjoyment of physical activity. 

City Springs has partnered with The Carroll School of Dance to offer students an opportunity to develop their dance skills in Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Hip Hop, Majorette, and other dance styles. This program is available both during and after school hours. Through this program, students get to learn basic dance concepts and dance history. Furthermore, at the end of the program, students get to showcase their skills in a special performance, which is attended by peers, teachers, families, and members of the community.

Partnering with Arts Organizations Across Baltimore

Partnering with outside organizations and nonprofits for enrichment is a hallmark of BCP schools. HHA offers students the Open Minds afterschool programs provided by Creative Alliance and its chorus for grades 2-4 in partnership with Baltimore Children’s Choir.

Pimlico Elementary / Middle School (PEMS) has enjoyed a rewarding partnership with After School Arts for Learning Academy (ASALA), a free Baltimore City Public Schools program created by Arts for Learning Maryland. The program gives students in Kindergarten through 8th grade afterschool and summer arts activities integrated with math and language studies. Four days a week, PEMS students explore a variety of arts from illustration and spoken word to drama and dance, taught by ASALA’s professional artists. Students use a wide variety of art forms from illustration and spoken word to percussion. The program includes homework time, athletics and robotics and aims to nurture artistic and social and emotional development.

 

Using Public Art as a Learning Opportunities

Two of our schools, Wolfe Street Academy and Govans Elementary School, have prominent public art sculptures on their campuses. The art teachers have recently used these important Baltimore sculptures as learning opportunities. 

Peely-Wheely, the whimsical statue that greets Wolfe Street’s community and the Upper Fells Point neighborhood, had a significant facelift last November, thanks to funding from the Maryland States Arts Council. Expert restoration specialists, advocates from Friends of Public Arts, and the artist Jim Paulson restored the statue to its former glory. 

Wolfe Street’s art teacher, Ms. Bevacqua, taught students about art conservation, important concepts of volume and space, and visited the sculpture during the renovation with her classes to see these concepts in real life. Read more about Peely Wheely’s restoration.

Last spring, Govans’ historic horse sculpture also had a facelift in a fun community outreach collaboration with Loyola University Maryland art students. The college students gave lessons on the statue’s history and Maryland history in horse-racing and collaborated with selected GES artists on the renovation of GES’ iconic sculpture, “The Of Course Culture Horse” by Stan Edmister, erected at the original school building in 1980. (In 2021, the Govans facility was completely renovated through the Baltimore City Public Schools’ 21st Century Schools Program.)

The colorful results are lasting lessons in the welcoming power of the arts and an  exuberant welcome to match Govans’ great school spirit. Check out the Govans’ sculpture restoration project.

About the Baltimore Curriculum Project

Baltimore Curriculum Project (BCP) is the largest operator of local neighborhood, public charter schools in Maryland. We create safe, supportive learning environments for children PK-8 by providing innovative, research-based educational strategies, intensive teacher training and extensive support for administration and staff. We support our local neighborhood needs by tailoring our resources and support through community partnerships.

As one of the longest-running charter operators in Maryland, our schools are regularly recognized as some of the most highly acclaimed neighborhood charter schools in the state. 

Pimlico Elementary / Middle School

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BALTIMORE CURRICULUM PROJECT
2707 E. Fayette Street
Baltimore, MD 21224
410-675-7000
Fax: 410-675-7030
bcpinfo@baltimorecp.org

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