BLAST Academy Helps K–8 Students Build Confidence and Knowledge

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – BLAST Academy concluded its second year with a final showcase on July 28 at the English Building on the University of Alabama campus. Participating K–8 students demonstrated new confidence and skills learned during the four-week program. BLAST stands for Building Leaders Through the Arts STEAM and Teamwork.

“Both of my kids have been in multiple different summer camps over the years, and last year during the first year of BLAST it was their favorite experience and after the last day, they asked immediately ‘when can we go to BLAST again’,” said Dr. Adam Sterritt, assistant vice president for strategic initiatives for The University of Alabama’s Division of Student Life. “I think what they liked so much was the combination of all the different things they did. They both said that it was even better this year, and they can’t wait to do it again.”

Held on the UA campus from July 3–28, BLAST Academy encourages summer learning in a creative environment for students 5–14 years old with a focus on arts education and literacy, physical education, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) and social and emotional learning. The program was expanded this year to include 7th– and 8th– grade students.  

During the STEAM sessions, students conducted science experiments and learned how mathematics is applied to the “real world” through use of numbers and shapes. Severe weather preparation is an important part of summertime in the South, and campers also learned how meteorologists use technology and tools created by engineers to report the weather. Outside the classroom, campers furthered their teamwork skills by playing soccer, volleyball and other team sports.

“She’s at the age where she loves school,” said Monique Prude, whose daughter participated in BLAST for the first time this year. “One of her elementary teachers sent me the information for it, so we tried it, and so far, she loved it. Coming home and hearing her talk about what they’ve done, that has been just the best part of it.”

During the final showcase, each age group performed a musical routine emphasizing the storytelling abilities they learned during the art and music education sessions. Prior to the performance, campers’ artwork and science journals were on display outside the auditorium for family and community members to view.

At the start of the showcase, camp instructors shared their reflections of working with the students over the summer.

“I worked BLAST last year, and I loved it,” said Zoe Griffin, a BLAST music education instructor. “I got such great experience practicing being a good leader and an effective instructor, and I loved working with the students.”

BLAST Academy is led by Dr. Daniela Susnara, director of planning and assessment for community engagement in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships.

BOA Talks Power of Connectivity During Fall 2023 Meeting