HARRISONBURG — Harrisonburg City Public Schools’ popular summer enrichment program has a new and expanded offshoot called the Art Institute.

The HCPS Summer Arts Institute opened its inaugural year at Skyline Middle School and Smithland Elementary School this week.

In conjunction with the Summer Enrichment Program, the Arts Institute offers students opportunities in music, dance, drama and visual art.

This is an opportunity to expand art offerings in the summer and to see if the school division can sustain an Art Institute like this, said Heather Eberly, a music teacher at Stone Spring Elementary School and an organizer for the summer program.

“We’re testing things out,” she said.

There are more than 500 students from both Harrisonburg City Schools and Rockingham County Schools participating in 38 classes. The Art Institute was free for HCPS students who were enrolled in summer school, but was opened to RCPS students for a fee.

There was so much interest in the Art Institute, which was offered to students from prekindergarten through ninth grade, that registration had to be cut off, Eberly said.

In February, a questionnaire was sent out to teachers asking if they were interested in teaching a class over the summer and what their preferences would be. From there, it was ascertained how many additional instructors would be needed based on enrollment.

“It takes a lot of planning. It’s all hands on deck,” Eberly said. Transportation also has to be arranged as many of the classes offered involved field trips.

For instance, one art class traveled to Riven Rock Park on Monday to wade into the river to gather rocks that they would paint and then hide around the Valley as part of a far-reaching program where Valley rocks get found and taken to other states for others to find.

The water adventures were a big hit with the first- and second-graders in the art class.

“We got ourselves all wet. I fell in the water,” said rising second-grader Vanessa Parhan.

“People were splashing and I got wet. It was a lot of fun,” said Wakuru-Mae Samson, a rising first-grader.

Each day was a different theme for the art class. Wednesday was transportation and during the afternoon, they painted train scenes.

“We’re working on making a train, and drawing clouds and grass,” Vanessa said.

Just down the hallway in the auditorium a group of about 20 students was learning a modern dance routine that they will perform on Friday for their fellow classmates and then for their families.

Emma Rodriguez, a third-grader at Smithland Elementary School, said she has enjoyed the modern dancing the most and she is already familiar with Latin dancing.

When asked what it is about dance that she loves, Emma said, “Because it inspires people.”

Contact Megan Williams at 574-6272 or mwilliams@dnronline.com. Follow Megan on Twitter @DNR_Learn

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