Pittsfield Public Schools: IS183 expanding afterschool program for city kids
By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff
IS183 Art School of the Berkshires is expanding afterschool art programs in some Pittsfield elementary schools.
This fall semester, approximately 120 students between Morningside Community and Williams Elementary schools participated in an eight-week art program at their respective sites, with IS183 art faculty and school volunteers.
“At Morningside, the program is entirely grant- funded and clearly has a significant impact on the kids participating,” said Hope Sullivan, director of the nonprofit art school based in Stockbridge.
She said the Learning Through Arts program was piloted back in the spring at Morningside, for students in kindergarten through Grade 5. The program was so popular that IS183 and Morningside received grants from The Berkshire Bank Foundation, Berkshire Life Insurance Company of America, Legacy Banks Foundation, Morningside Advisory Council, Price Chopper’s Golub Foundation, TD Bank, and The Robbins-de Beaumont Foundation, to bring the program back to Morningside for 24 weeks during the 2009-10 school year.
When parent Amy Santos, a member of the Williams Elementary School PTO, heard about the Learning Through Arts program, she and other parents soon took an interest in having the program in their school.
“It’s hard to get to Stockbridge and it’s hard to get our kids extra time in art,” she said. “For kids in sports and music, there are other programs and extra classes at the school, but there’s no additional art. So this is great. My kids love it.” The Williams PTO did some fundraising for scholarships for the program, which costs $60 per student for an eight-week session, and ultimately enrolled about 30 children.
For both the Williams and Morningside programs, IS183 art faculty go the schools once a week, with art supplies and lesson plans that comply with the Learning Standards for Visual Art for elementary school students, as mandated by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
This fall, artist Karen Arp-Sandel taught in both the Morningside and Williams programs. At Morningside, children learned about Mexican heritage art and the art associated with the Day of the Dead holiday. At Williams, she used various books to teach kindergarten, first- and second-graders about animals and habitats. Most recently, the Williams students learned about panda bears and Japanese-style brush painting.
“I love art. I guess if I couldn’t do it here, I could do it at home,” said Williams first-grader Alexa Yasinski. “But this is fun.”
“During the whole [art-making] process, I’ve noticed a lot of kids start to bring in their own things related to the lessons,” said author Nancy Castaldo, who used her own educational book “Leap Into Space” to help students create projects like drawing the moons of Neptune and creating stories about aliens with matching clay sculptures.
Fourth-grader Serena Wang was one of those students who went to the library to bring a space book back to the art class. “See,” she said, thrusting the book up towards Castaldo’s eye level.
“We cover a lot of different topics, which is cool because you get to learn about something then create art about it,” said Williams fifth-grader Vincenzo Coppola.
His classmate Ian Sacco nodded. “Yeah, I just wish we had more time.”