Brooklyn Cultural Adventures Program
Some 170 Brooklyn-area elementary and middle school children went off to camp last summer—and headed straight into the heart of Brooklyn. There, they created whimsical papier-mâché animals at the Brooklyn Museum, sketched landscape designs at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and used the Dewey Decimal System as part of a “survival” game at the Brooklyn Public Library. But, that wasn’t all. They used tracings of their feet to represent their “environmental footprint” at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, studied baboons at the Prospect Park Zoo, and even foraged for food at Prospect Park.
This nontraditional camp experience was courtesy of the Brooklyn Cultural Adventures Program (BCAP). The program takes advantage of the proximity of the six cultural institutions—all located within walking distance of one another on a historic, 11-acre campus in the center of the city. During its summer and out-of-school programs, BCAP offers a kind of moveable cultural feast, shepherding participants from site to site, where they sample hands-on learning experiences linked to each institution’s unique collections.
The program is “all about creating connections,” explains Ellen Salpeter, director of Heart of Brooklyn Cultural Institutions, Inc., which coordinates the program. Each year, program partners identify a unifying theme—this year’s was “Wild in the City”—which allows children to study a single topic through a variety of lenses and make connections across disciplines. At the same time, BCAP helps member institutions connect more deeply with their communities.
“These are public institutions, public collections, and the goal is to give the next generation a sense of ownership and exploration,” Salpeter explains.
The program offers summer-camp tuition assistance to attract more children from Brooklyn’s diverse neighborhoods. To reach youngsters who live at a greater distance, BCAP invites social service organizations from other boroughs to bring youngsters for one-day “express” visits. Through a partnership with the New York City Housing Authority, BCAP also offers an after-school program for children from an East New York public housing complex.
That program is not just about exploring the arts and sciences, says the Housing Authority’s Eric Cumberbatch. “For children in the most vulnerable of circumstances, it is an essential first step to a lifelong connection with the cultural and intellectual life of their city.”
“The Brooklyn Cultural Adventures Program helped my son and daughter see that these places are more than destinations to bide time or placate their parents’ wishes for cultural exposure. They’ve gained a sense of proprietorship and a love of the city of Brooklyn.”Carole Brown-Kelly, parent