(CBS) — It has only been a charter school for two years now, but in those two years Little Black Pearl Options Lab School in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood has taken an aggressive and unique approach to serving their students.
They’ve done it through art, CBS 2’s Kate Sullivan reports.
It’s not every day Chicago public school students get to learn the finer points of glass blowing, or wood-burning art or performing arts. But here they do.
Director Monica Haslip created it as an after-school art program 18 years ago and just recently transformed it into a full-fledged high school.
“Black pearls to me are defined as unique and exquisite and rare and that’s really how I thought of the children,” she says.
The kids are unique in many ways. Some have not been able to thrive in the CPS system, and this is their chance.
“Through art we teach science, we teach math, we teach English,” Osei Badu says.
The 175 students are exposed to everything from painting to drawing, sculpture, singing and glass-blowing.
Whitney Ishop is wood-burning a picture of her brother — an aspiring rapper — but her own aspirations are being crafted with pen in hand.
“If you believe you can do it, you can do it,” she says.
Expectations are high, and the students rise to the challenge. On a recent day, they were creating glass roses — one for each of the Newtown, Conn. shooting victims.
With a scorching hot furnace, it might seem counterintuitive to put kids in such a risky environment, but not so, says Tracy Kirchmann.
“They are really excited about it or they’re a little apprehensive, but either way within a week they are working in here,” she says. “I don’t necessarily want them to become future glass artists. They walk in the door and they think this is impossible on the first day, and then they find out that it’s not. So then it’s like: What else can you do?”
Besides the art classes, students get a full load of standard academic classes. But they are taught those traditional classes through the lens of art.
Little Black Pearl also makes these unique classes available to adults as well. Click here to learn more.