Engaging Students
In and out of
the Classroom

SHARP partners with educators to foster a love of learning and brighten children’s futures through innovative STEAM-based experiential programs.

We bring learning to life by actively engaging students with hands-on activities, educational tours, collaborative summer and after-school programs, mural projects, multi-generational reading programs and more. Our unique approach leads to demonstrable outcomes with students increasing background knowledge.

STEAM Core and Summer Programs

Students participating in the STEAM program and summer program gain grade level content area background knowledge in STEAM concepts through arts-integrated workshops.  Each workshop includes collaborative activities geared toward visual, kinesthetic and auditory learners. The Artful Thinking Palette is woven throughout the curricula. Techniques called thinking routines from the Artful Thinking Palette allow students to build critical thinking skills while looking closely at art images and nonfiction text. Thinking routines also promote student engagement and conversation, tools that are essential skills for future learners. Another major component of each workshop is a hands-on visual art project that helps build background knowledge and art skills through inquiry and the art making process. In addition, students participate in collaborative writing or drawing to learn activities geared towards building content area background knowledge.

STEAM Program

SHARP’s STEAM Program teaches K3-5th grade students science, technology, engineering, art and math concepts through arts integration while promoting curiosity, discovery, communication and perseverance. The program runs during the school year, aligning with and reinforcing grade level curriculum. Each grade level explores a topic ranging from living things, plants, seasons, and pollinators to the water cycle, the salmon life cycle, composting, and aquaponics.  Experiential learning occurs through the 3 main components of the program:

• SHARP educator led collaborative workshops
• Educational tours with partnering sites
• Culminating art project

The 3 components are geared towards all types of learners by incorporating visual, kinesthetic and auditory activities.  Students work collaboratively through practicing reading strategies, writing, and creating hands-on art projects with mixed media. Through the creative process, students gain content knowledge and develop critical thinking skills. They build confidence and motivation to become lifelong learners.

In addition, SHARP provides professional development opportunities and extensions for teachers about STEAM and arts integration in the classroom.

Summer Programs

Aloha Adventure

Students explore arts-integrated and STEAM-infused learning activities to discover the science, culture and art of the Hawaiian Islands through SHARP’s We Love to Learn book Aloha Adventure.

Art On The Move: Your Neighborhood, Our City

Through readings from SHARP’s We Love To Learn book, Explore MKE, students will uncover the history of Milwaukee.

STEAM Dream Team

SHARP students will go outdoors to run, pitch and hit all while collecting data and learning. They will use tools like stop watches, Blast! Bluetooth batting trackers and iPads to collect, visualize and interpret data.

Design Through Code

Coding is the language of the future. Learning to code can help students succeed in our increasingly connected world. Beyond digital literacy, the process of learning to code promotes essential skills that are valuable across a variety of disciplines from problem-solving and logic, to collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. Through SHARP Literacy’s “Design Through Code” (DTC) program, the organization provides 3rd grade and 5th grade students the tools and techniques to become future-ready.   

SHARP’s Education Team has collaborated with numerous organizations to develop the DTC program including Northwestern Mutual, Rockwell Automation, Design Fugitives, Quad/Graphics, UWM’s Girls Who Code Club, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, the Wisconsin Dept. of Public Instruction and many others. These individuals vary from experts in technology, engineering, design thinking, art and education and have been instrumental in helping SHARP Literacy’s Education Team to further develop the curriculum, educational field trips and assessments for this program.  

In the DTC program, elementary students learn about the fundamentals of coding through both “unplugged’ (offline) and “plugged” (online) activities. Both unplugged and plugged lessons build knowledge and understanding in different ways, while creating an engaging and collaborative classroom environment.   

The program culminates with a “Design Challenge” – a collaborative project that challenges students to solve a problem they see at school. Working together, students use their knowledge of coding, art and the design process to create a prototype solution to the problem they’ve identified. After creating an artistic rendering with code, a physical prototype and a group presentation about their project, students present their projects to a panel of professionals in STEAM careers. Student groups present their projects to this panel of professionals and in turn gain confidence in their work while also seeing a future for themselves in STEAM.  

Beginning in the 2021-22 school year, SHARP expanded its Design Through Code programming for 3rd grade students. Educational tours allow students to explore how and where technology and design intersect. 4th grade students visit the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s (MSOE) STEM Center, while 5th graders go to MSOE’s CREATE Institute. In both educational tours, students not only see technology and art working together, they also see a variety of paths to future careers and educational opportunities.

Partner Schools (2021-22 School Year)  

  • Escuela Vieau (Milwaukee Public Schools)
  • Forest Home Avenue School (Milwaukee Public Schools)
  • Hmong American Peace Academy (HAPA)
  • La Casa de Esperanza
  • Messmer St. Mary
  • Messmer St. Rose
  • Milwaukee Academy of Science (MAS)
  • Notre Dame School of Milwaukee
  • Rogers Street Academy (Milwaukee Public Schools)
  • St. Augustine Preparatory Academy
  • St. Martini (LUMIN Schools)
  • Victory K-8 School for the Gifted and Talented and Italian Immersion (Milwaukee Public Schools)
  • Westside Academy (Milwaukee Public Schools)

Beyond the Classroom

Part of our approach is the extension of educational experiences beyond the classroom. Student learning deepens through curriculum-based educational tours to Milwaukee and Waukesha County museums and attractions. These arts-integrated tours help bring challenging science and social studies ideas and academic vocabulary to life.

Intergenerational Program

Through a unique partnership with a school and a senior center, SHARP Literacy brings together elementary school children and older adults through reading and art. SHARP’s Intergenerational program gets students out of the classroom and into their community. Through reading, writing, conversation and art, students and seniors build meaningful relationships with each other. Participants of all ages celebrate an excitement for lifelong learning, curiosity and compassion.

“My senior friend has some trouble hearing, but over time we discovered that we both really like to read.” – 5th grade student at Messmer St. Mary’s

“I learned that meeting new people can be nice. If you talk to new people, you might have some things in common and find new friends.” – 4th grade student at Victory School

“These visits with the seniors show my students that what we’re learning about it in school is relevant. It’s not just that reading is important. It shows them the importance of being respectful, empathetic and how to be a part of a community. It brings tears to my eyes”– 5th grade teacher at Whittier Elementary

“Our seniors enjoy every moment of these visits. The connections made from day one were truly amazing.” – Nina Birschbach, Program Director at Shorehaven Living

Senior Living Partners

  • Ovation Chai Point in Milwaukee
  • Shorehaven in Oconomowoc

School Partners

  • Victory School (MPS)
  • Messmer St. Mary’s
  • Whittier Elementary (School District of Waukesha)




After-school Learning Program

To extend student learning beyond the school day, SHARP also provides after-school learning opportunities at partner sites. The program provides a modified version of our school-year curriculum that suits the specific needs of the after-school environment. Just as with our other programs, SHARP’s curriculum focuses on building students’ academic skills in tandem with developing essential life skills of creativity, collaboration and complex problem solving. Reading and other academic content is blended with hands-on art projects and experiential learning.

In partnership with Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, students from Milwaukee’s Westlawn neighborhood participate in SHARP’s Greenhouse Revitalization Project at Browning Elementary. The students are an integral part of the project, from growing plants in the greenhouse to loading the solar dehydrator with fruits and vegetables (designed and installed by students from MSOE).

Recent partners include:

  • Browning Elementary (MPS)
  • Thurston Woods School (MPS)
  • City on a Hill

Integrative Projects

Each year, SHARP works with a select number of schools on integrative projects, such as creating public art murals or developing books that are professionally published. These students work with a professional author or artist in a series of workshops that engage them in inquiry-based, hands-on research. The authors and artists collaborate with educators to develop arts-integrated learning experiences that draw out students’ curiosity and help them make connections between their lives and the real world subjects they study. They also learn how to ask deep questions regarding what they think might be significant to an outside audience and apply critical thinking skills toward an authentic goal that lives beyond the classroom.

Learn More About Our Programs