Action Arts and Science Program

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Action Arts and Science Program

Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science
301 South Main Avenue
Sioux Falls, SD 57104
Phone: 605.367.7397
Fax: 605.367.7399

Focus: Science, Theater, Visual Arts

Annual Number Participating: 600–700

Ages: Elementary School, Middle School, High School

Annual Budget: $80,000

Partners: Minnehaha County Juvenile Detention Center; Multi-Cultural Center of Sioux Falls; Sioux Falls Family YMCA; Sioux Falls School District, Kids Inc. Program; Volunteers of America, Dakotas’ Bowden Youth Center and Heisler Substance Abuse Program; Youth Enrichment Services

Funders: City of Sioux Falls; South Dakota Arts Council; South Dakota Department of Education

With a visual arts center, interactive science center, and performing arts center all under one roof, the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science considers itself a “hub for all things creative” in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. To connect with young people who rarely make it to the Pavilion, the institution has initiated an ambitious outreach effort. Through its Action Arts and Science Program (AASP), the Pavilion brings after-school art and science activities to 21 sites around the community—including schools, community centers, and a juvenile detention center—reaching some 500 low-income or underserved young people every week.

Although people often think of science and the arts as polar opposites, “the scientific method and the artistic design process are very similar, involving similar steps and skill sets,” observes Rose Ann Hofland, director of the Pavilion’s Community Learning Center. Both involve testing out ideas, examining results, and trying again, she notes.

While some of the AASP’s lessons focus mainly on art or mainly on science, others integrate the two disciplines. For example, in conjunction with a Pavilion exhibition on the art and science of Dr. Seuss, elementary school students designed Seuss-inspired worlds, creating models of imaginary habitats, each with its own climate and wonderfully strange flora and fauna. A different activity—aimed at middle and high school students—invited young people to design Middle Eastern tiles. During the process, they learned how geometric shapes become the basis for intricate, interlocking patterns.

Because the activities are fun and unusual, “kids always know what day Pavilion Day is,” remarks Amber Lounsbery, program coordinator. While participants make new friends and learn to work as a team, one of the most noticeable skills they acquire from the AASP’s hands-on, experimental approach is the confidence to try something new.

“A lot of kids will come to the table at the first session with the attitude, ‘No, I can’t do that; it’s too hard,’” states Hofland. However, between the instructor’s encouragement and the enticing activities, “kids are soon willing to take the brave step to say, ‘Yes, I can do this,’” she adds. “This is something we see across the board.” Students develop self-expression and find value in their own creative abilities.

I have seen my students flourish in “thinking-outside-the-box” skills. It is amazing to see the curiosity flowing from each young mind.

Kelly Gaalswyk After-School Site Coordinator, Hawthorne Elementary School, Sioux Falls, SD