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.


Our STEAM Program teaches K3-5th graders STEAM concepts through arts integration while promoting curiosity, discovery, communication and perseverance. Each class
explores a topic ranging from living things, plants, seasons, and pollinators to financial literacy, culture and social studies. Students participating in this 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.

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 two main components of the program:

  • SHARP educator led collaborative workshops
  • Educational tours with partnering sites

K3 – Physics
Our youngest learners discover concepts of physical science through play, art, music, movement, read-alouds and SEL activities. By experimenting with items that sink or float, coloring a rainbow, dancing and singing about gravity or listening to a story about force and motion, students become curious and grasp ideas about the fascinating world around them.
Key Concepts: Sink & Float, Gravity, Rainbows, Force & Motion

K4 – Animal Habits & Habitats
Adventures await K4 explorers as they learn about animal habits and habitats. Through an arts-integrated approach that combines STEAM, literacy and SEL, students learn about animal needs, adaptations, behaviors and shelters. Curiosity is sparked by listening to the songs of whales, designing a home for their favorite furry or feathered friend and taking a virtual journey to the desert with a camel, the rainforest with a toucan and the coral reef with a sea turtle.
Key Concepts: Animal Behaviors, Adaptations & Shelters
SHARP We Love To Learn book: Aloha Adventure: A Story of Two Friends

K5 – Plants & Seasons
Explorers follow the journey of a seed to a plant through the 4 seasons and discover how plants grow and change. Through an arts-integrated approach that combines STEAM, literacy and SEL, students connect to the science of trees while making personal connections. Through read-alouds, observation, comparing and contrasting, hands-on art, and visualization, students grow and thrive like the very plants they are studying.
Key Concepts: Plants, Seasons & Climates
SHARP We Love To Learn book: Aloha Adventure: A Story of Two Friends

First Grade – Pollinators
What is all the buzz about? Pollinators! Through an arts-integrated approach that combines STEAM, literacy and SEL, explorers take a deep dive into honeybees, their jobs, their fascinating anatomy and discover what makes them the planet’s greatest pollinators. They also explore the world of pollinators including bats, butterflies and birds. Students put their findings into art by creating a sculpture of a honeybee and a pollinator hotel.
Key Concepts: Pollination, Honeybees & Other Animal Pollinators
SHARP We Love To Learn book: A Busy Bee: The Story of Bella The Honey Bee

Second Grade – Cycles In Nature
Nature is filled with cycles. Students take a deep dive into the water cycle and salmon life cycle through STEAM, literacy and social and emotional learning (SEL). Students build critical thinking skills, make connections and increase curiosity through engaging, arts-integrated activities such as a mixed-media water cycle diagram, movement activities that connect weather and feelings, an internal weather report and salmon yoga which reinforces the stages of the salmon life cycle.
Key Concepts: Water Cycle & Salmon Life Cycle
SHARP We Love To Learn book: A Great Lakes Adventure, Salmon’s Journey Home

Third Grade – Explore MKE
Students examine the elements of community by exploring the culture, neighborhoods and festivals of Milwaukee. Through an arts integrated approach to learning that combines social studies, literacy and SEL, students connect to the vibrant city where they live and their personal classroom community. Collaborative hands-on activities include self-portraits, culture sculptures, skyline Zentangles, festival poster illustrations and theater games. An immersive experience awaits our young Milwaukeeans.
Key Concepts: Community & Culture
SHARP We Love To Learn book: Explore MKE: Your Neighborhood, Our City

Fourth Grade – All About Wisconsin
Young learners explore Wisconsin’s geography and the work of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Through an arts-integrated approach that combines STEAM, social studies, literacy, and SEL, students discover fascinating aspects of Wisconsin and themselves. Utilizing Google Earth, students illustrate a Wisconsin landscape using one-point perspective, draft an organic building and use geometry to design a stained-glass window. 4th graders will broaden their understanding of this diverse state.
Key Concepts: Geography & Architecture in Wisconsin
SHARP We Love To Learn book: All About Wisconsin

Fifth Grade – Journeys of Home
Students learn about themes of family, home and cultural diversity. Fifth graders explore cultural experiences through various personal stories and related social studies, literacy and STEAM-integrated activities. They discover how location affects people, places and environment and find opportunities for personal or collaborative civic engagement with community, school, state, tribal,  national and global implications.
Key Concepts: Social Studies & Culture
SHARP We Love To Learn book:  Journeys of Home: Migration, Perseverance, and Culture

Design Through Code

Computing and technology hold the promise of the future for today’s youth, yet for many urban students, this opportunity lies outside their reach. SHARP Literacy understands that digital literacy is an essential part of education for today’s elementary students and has developed programs that address this critical need. Design Through Code (DTC) introduces 3rd through 5th grade students to coding and computer science. The standards-aligned curriculum engages students in discovering topics traditionally left out of elementary schools—from coding and computational thinking to engineering and design thinking. DTC programs tap into essential skills such as problem-solving, perseverance and collaboration. By introducing these STEAM subjects at an early age, we believe the program sets students up for educational success in middle school and beyond.

Design Through Code 2
This spring 2023 pilot involves a series of eight workshops designed to teach foundational coding skills through unplugged activities connected to the STEAM program Cycles in Nature. Students will learn about sequential algorithms, loops and debugging through mazes, game play and designing their own unplugged coding game with a friend!

Design Through Code 3
Through a fun gardening theme, students explore science, technology, art/design and math. Children plant a mini garden and keep track of the growing process in a science journal. Through the use of plugged and unplugged activities, students will learn the basics of coding, from algorithms to loops, while priming them to problem-solve like a computer scientist. In their culminating project, students will design a flower or vegetable to plant in their digital garden using their new coding skills.

Design Through Code 4
DTC 4 introduces upper elementary students to the language of coding. Children and teachers who have little or no experience coding will love fun unplugged activities like the Paper Airplane Algorithms and Loop Dance, which prepare students for learning to code on Code.org. In the last 10 sessions of the program, students work in teams on a “Design Challenge” where they create a prototype to solve a problem within their school or community. Professionals throughout the Milwaukee area will volunteer and share their expertise and various checkpoints along the way. Developed to tap essential skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, the DTC 4 Design Challenge culminates in a presentation of their projects to a panel of professionals. Winning teams from each participating school will then present their projects.

Learn more about the 2023 Interschool Design Challenge here.

Design Through Code 5
Students who participated in SHARP’s DTC 4 will continue learning about coding and technology. From plugged lessons on Code.org to engineering mini-challenges with Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), students will learn to think, build and design. In order to prepare children for middle school and beyond, students will participate in a unit on physical computing with Gearbox Labs about the possibilities of using coding and engineering together. Gearbox Labs are Arduino Uno Kits with a SHARP curated workbook to go along with the lessons.

Summer Program

Students build academic skills in tandem with essential skills such as creativity, collaboration and problem-solving. Each program combines academics, growth mindset and social emotional learning (SEL) with exciting and experiential activities including visual art, sports and creative movement.

Rising 1st Grade-3rd – Aloha Adventure
Explorers will use their creativity with arts-integrated and STEAM-infused activities including storytelling through puppetry, exploring the science of volcanoes, and learning about hula and luau firsthand with Na Hale Studios. Fun learning experiences through visual arts, theatre arts, movement and music will spark curiosity and inspire explorers to embrace and express the Aloha spirit in their daily lives.
SHARP We Love To Learn book: Aloha Adventure: A Story of Two Friends

Rising 3rd Grade-5th – Explore MKE
Explore MKE features the distinctive elements of Milwaukee such as greenspace, landmarks and festivals. Young learners experience the city firsthand on a guided walking tour of their neighborhood. Through arts-integrated activities, such as paper sculpture and tableaux, students will spark curiosity, discovery and gain a greater sense of pride in their community.
SHARP We Love To Learn book: Explore MKE: Your Neighborhood, Our City

Rising 3rd Grade-5th – STEAM Dream Team
Students learn how to become a team player through playing baseball and the culmination of work in math, art, critical thinking and financial literacy. Curricular projects include creating a personal data-driven baseball card and designing their own team’s brand. Students head outdoors to practice baseball skills and use their own stats to interpret and visualize data. The program concludes with students attending a Brewers Game at American Family Field.

Johnson Controls Garden and Greenhouse
Students plant and tend to fruit, vegetables and flowers, following them from seed to table. They build background knowledge, critical thinking skills, and social and emotional skills through a variety of arts-integrated activities. Topics included sustainable gardening methods – aquaponics, composting, solar dehydration, and rainwater harvesting. Students also dig deep into urban agriculture, food justice and nutrition. Students gained lifelong skills of responsibility, communication, teamwork, ownership and leadership.

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 the Johnson Controls Garden and Greenhouse 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).

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 Communities in Milwaukee

School Partners

  • Hadfield Elementary (School District of Waukesha)

Reading With Programs

In our Reading with the Golden Eagles (Marquette University) and Reading with the Pios (Carroll University) programs, young learners bond with college athletes through mentorship and reading. Students discover that you have to be able to read, do math and pursue education to do well in sports. Our participating athletes learn how to give back to their community and inspire youth to pursue higher education.

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.

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.

Learn More About Our Programs