Rockets, Rovers, and The Arts – OH MY!

Some people may assume that summer is a quiet time at Young Audiences, when we can catch up on the things we could not accomplish during our busy school year of bringing artists into schools. Increasingly, summer is one of our busiest times for our artists and staff. In fact, our staff and artists injected arts and creative learning into 372 programs through Maryland’s camps, library programs, and academies, impacting more than 6,000 children in the process.

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In Harford County, YA partnered with five Title I elementary schools, Halls Cross Roads, William Paca/Old Post, Magnolia, George D. Lisby, and Havre de Grace, to offer two week STEM programs called Jump Start. This program gives 3rd to 5th grade students a “jump start” to their school year by cultivating their interest in STEM fields.

At YA we always put an A (for the Arts) in STEM to create STEAM, inspired learning environments. In this instance, a YA artist was in residence at each Jump Start site and they partnered with teachers to integrate their art form into the STEAM curriculum. For example, Halls Cross Roads Elementary students worked with teaching artist and drummer Steve Cyphers to create original percussion instruments using the Engineering Design Process. Students worked with Femi the Dri Fish to write their own poetry about math concepts. Kevin Martin taught children about the physics of sound by helping them make and play steel drums, dancer Valerie Branch helped students choreograph and perform dances that represented a story called “Rocket Power”, and Bryan Collins, of FutureMakers, used a perfect blend of art and engineering to help students tap into their imagination to invent space helmets and motorized satellites.


“Summer school” sounds a lot different than it used to sound, right? This innovative look and feel is purposeful and can be attributed to our amazing artists and their ability to make interesting connections with the curriculum.

All the research says that summer learning can make the difference for many children. In fact, more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. Summer programs have been shown to improve academic outcome, increase graduation rates, and better prepare students for college. In addition, studies have shown that educational summer programs positively affect children’s motivation, self-esteem, and confidence. Summer programs are great for teachers as well! Partnering with creative, highly qualified artists allows the teachers to collaborate outside of the box and truly see the value of arts integration. You can see the impact from our Jump Start Teacher Surveys:

“We enjoyed the ability to plan and work through the projects with the artist so we would know what the children were going to do. We will now supplement our regular classroom activities with simple building projects and allow the students to take the lead in the designing and building.”

“I will now keep in mind how dance connects so well to other content. I will use movement with the class to create dance/sequential movements to convey various ideas (code of conduct, main idea, math, emotions, etc.)”

“The kids LOVED the drums! They learned about all aspects of the art, from making a drum, to playing and performing. It is a great art/engineering connection!”

“Femi made the poetry cool for students who would usually be resistant to writing poems! It was an inspiration to combine poetry with math.”

“Motivation was high! The students really looked forward to the time.”


YA’s mission is to transform the lives and education of Maryland students through the arts, and summer months are perfect and critical opportunities to create inspiring, engaging and transformational moments for our students.

We are excited to come together with others who are passionate about summer learning when the National Center for Summer Learning Association hosts their conference in Baltimore, titled Summer Changes Everything, with the theme Renewing the Promise and Purpose of Learning. ( We hope to see you there!