Vickery Meadow Students Spend a Day at the DMA

Preston Hollow Presbyterian, others support summer reading academy

For a mix of students who combine to speak at least 11 native languages, not just any cultural field trip will do.

Vickery Meadow Summer Reading Academy (VMSRA) took 62 first through fifth graders and six adult volunteers to the Dallas Museum of Art in late July.

“Well, (art) just makes a person more global, especially because these kids have unique worldviews,” said youth leader Aditya Shivaswamy, a senior this fall at St. Mark’s School of Texas.

The students visited galleries featuring American, Canadian, African, Asian, and oceanic arts, plus the textile gallery. They could quickly identify artwork they were familiar with and realized connections between artwork across cultures.

 “These children want to learn about art and different cultures,” Shivaswamy said. “It’s really important for them to look at other cultures and see how those cultures have expressed themselves and how they can express themselves through art.”

Located in the Vickery Meadow neighborhood, VMSRA strives to teach Lee A. McShan Elementary students English literacy skills.

All the students live in Vickery Meadow, a low-income neighborhood where many are refugees, and English is their second language.

Dalene Buhl founded the academy in 2010 after reading in the Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church bulletin that children at McShan needed help passing the TAKS, which then tested Texas elementary students in reading, writing, math, and science. 

She began by tutoring a small group of children, then grew the program into a summer program with 16 students in attendance the first year. 

The founding sponsor, Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church, soon partnered with North Park Presbyterian Church, Temple Emanu-El, and Vickery Meadow Youth Development Foundation to sponsor the academy.

VMSRA provides reading, writing, art, music, dance, gardening, and science programs. The reading program runs each July, four days a week, five hours a day, with the academy providing two meals a day for the students.

Youth and adult volunteers provide classroom-style lessons and one-on-one instruction. These volunteers teach English phonics, reading, writing, comprehension, and vocabulary. 

“The students enjoy the academy’s enrichment programs,” Shivaswamy said. “In music, for example, we learn basic music theory, sing, and play the keyboard together, which is a lot of fun. Students also have arts, dance, and gardening.”

The trip to the DMA, funded by the Dallas Pi Beta Phi Alumnae Chapter, was the program’s first field trip outside of the Vickery Meadow neighborhood in its 13 years.

Attendees went on scavenger hunts, perusing the galleries for specific art pieces, and participated in DMA activities, including one in which they did sketches. After the museum tour, they drew what they had seen, giving it their own twists.

“Students thoroughly enjoyed their trip to the DMA,” Buhl said. “I accompanied younger students and newcomers who saw it for the first time and were in awe. In photos, the joy in their faces is obvious. They definitely had the time of their lives.”

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