MPS Summer Academy tackles traditional subjects through the arts

Posted at 9:24 AM, Jul 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-18 10:26:39-04
MILWAUKEE -- Thousands of Milwaukee students are spending their summer in the classroom; learning traditional subjects like math and science, from unconventional teachers, using unconventional methods. 
“On a count of three, everyone start slowly hatching into a caterpillar,” a theater teacher told kindergarten students in their summer academy class.
The activity isn’t just to keep the kids active.
“Here we have kids that are 5-years-old. They are learning the life cycle of a butterfly and doing it in a way that engages them,” said Dr. John Hill, Director of College and Career Readiness for Milwaukee Public Schools.
The children are using theater to show the science they are learning. It’s part of a new arts integration program with Milwaukee Public Schools this summer.
“That's what theater is. It's storytelling; bringing that text to life,” said Jenny Toutant with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.
Artists from the Milwaukee Rep, Arts @ Large, and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music teamed up with the district, and developed a curriculum.
They are tackling what can be somewhat tricky, in a way that makes kids remember; and letting kids be kids.
Just like these students are showing how things physically grow, so do the lessons. 
“Some of the kids are working on social justice issues on the older age levels,” said Toutant.
That's where we found 13-year-old McKinley Coleman. In her eighth grade class, they are using poetry to explore how to get other teens off the streets and do something positive. 
“We can form activities where we can clean up our neighborhoods and build gardens,” said Coleman.
The lines she reads and writes are teaching her a lesson that extends outside these walls at the 53rd Street School.
“Not being afraid to stand up and speak. When we get older and as we grow as teenagers, we have to be able to speak in front of everyone to get where we need to be,” said Coleman.
“I've always loved the power of theatre, and the magic of theatre and how it can be a tool to educate, entertain and make positive change,” said Toutant.
This Summer Academy program rolls out a larger initiative for MPS this coming school year, where teachers will individually incorporate more of the arts into their classrooms and lesson plans.