This week is going to be BUSY at the Honolulu Museum of Art School. ELL (English Language Learner) students from Leeward and McKinley school districts are visiting the museum for summer art camps. And I’m going to tell you how it all came about.

Last fall, the Art School launched an ELL after-school Art to Go program at Queen Ka‘ahumanu Elementary School. The concept is to promote language development through art. The program was so successful that this spring semester it grew to in-school classes for every student, and each Wednesday 45 ELL students are accompanied by museum instructors and security officers to the Art School for after-school art classes. The program is funded by a three-year grant from the Stupski Family Fund.

At the same time, the government funds an Immigrant Children and Youth (ICY) program that helps families with children who were born outside of the US and its Territories to navigate their new lives in the US. McKinley District’s ELL Resource Teacher Lorri Kondo and Leeward District’s ELL District Educational Specialist Greg Uchishiba approached our Art School about the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Art to Go program. “They said, we have grant money, and asked us if we could develop a similar after-school program for them,” says Vince Hazen, director of our Art School.

Vince and our outreach program manager Justin Davies took on the challenge. “We developed a pilot Art to Go program at Likelike, Lanakila, and Kauluwela elementary schools,” says Davies. “The program is designed to let kids be creative, learn English and take pride in their own cultural heritage.” Pictured above are Lanakila students experiencing kinetic art in the exhibition Inquiring Finds at Spalding House.

The pilot has done so well, that Lorri and Greg asked if it would be possible to have a summer program. The answer was yes—students from their districts are arriving on buses for summer camps at the Art School today!

Students from Likelike, Queen Ka‘ahumanu, Lanikila, Ka‘iulani, and Kauluwela will attend half-day sessions for two weeks. From June 2 to 6, 50 students from Waipahu, August Ahrems, and Ewa Beach elementaries are attending immersive full-day Art Camp that includes lunch. They will explore the galleries in the museum and make art in the school’s studio classrooms. Class emphasizes writing along with art making, and each student will receive a sketch journal in which they can let their imaginations run wild. The day also includes storytime with children’s books selected for “their cool illustrations,” says Justin. To help students develop their language skills, classes will set up situations for kids to talk about art.

ELL Art Camp includes a sketch journal for each student and storytime.

ELL Art Camp includes a sketch journal for each student and storytime.

From one grant funding a single program, a whole tree of programs, some funded by federal money, has sprouted thanks to our innovative staff and two forward-thinking, resourceful DOE educators. Who knows where it can go from here. Well, we kinda know, and look forward to the challenge.

Artwork by Art to Go ELL students.

Artwork by Art to Go ELL students.