Gifted Students Take Crash Courses in STEAM


Gifted and advanced learned in grades 7-9 presented a showcase of their artistic works at the end of a week-long summer program.

Haste does not necessarily always come to waste. Cases in point are the summer camps under the auspices of the DMPS Gifted & Advanced Learners Program (GALP) that culminated on Friday after a busy week of creativity.

Elementary students in grades 3-5 met every morning at Central Academy to rev up a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) engine and middle school students bound for grades 7-9 gathered at RAILS Academy to “major” and “minor” in art forms including visual arts, dance, music and drama.

The 62 middle school campers staged a showcase over the noon hour Friday in the RAILS auditorium to highlight what they’d worked on over the crash course of the week.

There was a slide show that chronicled an outdoor mural the visual art majors produced on site at the Downtown School garden to illustrate the overall camp theme of Our Common Threads: Celebrating World Culture through the Arts. A time lapse video of the process was a vivid portrayal of the time crunch they were under, one belied by the quality of their finished product.

There was choreography; footwork that looked too fancy to have been practiced a mere five days.

Music majors divided themselves into three small ensembles; the Chuckling Strawberries, the Water Malones and the Federalists; and performed interpretations of pieces ranging from Lynrd Skynard to Hamilton.

Theater types staged a version of the melting pot play Faces of Freedom, condensed to 30 minutes.

Also, the hallway outside the auditorium was wallpapered with costume designs and drawings the young artists managed to find time for in between rehearsals.

The camp was coordinated by Karen Sissel, Secondary Consultant for GALP. It was staffed by a combination of artists from the community and DMPS teachers. The music major, for instance, was under the joint direction of local musician and historian Seth Hedquist and Jason Danielson who, in addition to teaching AP social studies at Central Academy by day, is an accomplished jazz pianist by night.

“Yes, this camp feeds my creative side,” Danielson said prior to Friday’s showcase. “But Seth and I are both historians besides musicians and we approach this week as an opportunity to teach some world history and culture through the study of music.”

Besides majors in music, art, dance and theater, minors were offered in those disciplines and costume design, music history, and African music and movement. Two and a half hours each day were spent in the major area of interest and one hour in the minor.

Other camp staffers in addition to Hedquist and Danielson included: Emily Griffith; Hoover High School Theater Director, Jaime McTaggart; Rails Academy Director, Cassie Kendzora; Arts Integration Coach at Harding Middle School, Kathleen Davenport: artist/teacher at Madison Elementary, Branden Oliver; McCombs music teacher/musician and Kathleen Hurley; dance instructor at Grinnell College/Artistic Director of Hurley & Dancers.

Photos from Gifted Arts Summer Showcase

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