BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore city schools kick off a brand new summer program that pairs teachers with local professional artists specializing in everything from hip hop to theatre to filmmaking.

As Derek Valcourt explains, the goal is to get kids learning through an art form they love.

City schools have offered all kinds of summer programs in the past, but this is the first time summer learning has been paired with the arts.

This is no ordinary summer camp. Here, hip hop dancing, African drumming, theatre and traditional art are part of the every day curriculum.

Baltimore City schools partnered with Young Audiences Arts for Learning to launch a five week summer arts academy for rising fourth through eighth graders.

It’s perfect for kids like Zeriah Butler.

“I like dancing and singing and acting,” she said.

It’s also perfect for her mom, since tuition for all 250 city school kids who signed up is free.

“Since the day she got the letter, she’s been running around the house screaming. So this has been an awesome opportunity for her,” said Anna Butler, Zeriah’s mom.

The camp pairs classroom teachers with local professional artists–like hip hop musician Jamaal Collier–who the kids know as Mr. Root.

“We’re bringing things that they would probably already like to do at home anyway and we’re bringing it into the classroom and then we’re slipping in that knowledge and wisdom component,” said Collier. “Because the application of knowledge is wisdom so we’re helping to make them wiser and building different skills through arts integration.”

“There’s really something for everybody. You may not be the actor, but you may like to work behind the camera and do filmmaking, or you may be a techie and like to do digital music production–so we have really the gambit,” said Kurtis Donnelly, Young Audiences Arts for Learning.

For parents like Eric Smalls, this was a no-brainer.

Valcourt: “What else would your son have been doing this summer?”

Smalls: “Staying home, riding his bike, playing basketball and just getting on everyone’s nerves.”

The kids will have opportunities for field trips throughout the summer, including a trip to Artscape, where they will all perform on stage.

Selection for the summer arts academy program was on a first come, first served basis. More than 200 kids were placed on the waiting list.

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