For more than twenty years, students have found inspiration and opened their minds to new possibilities through literary, performing, visual and culinary arts programs offered by ASAP!. Begun as a local effort in rural communities in the Litchfield Hills, ASAP! now reaches more than 9,000 children from 100 Connecticut towns each year. Bridging arts and academics, ASAP!’s Metamorphosis Project brings learning to the world beyond the classroom, engrossing students in creative exploration with science, math, visual arts, social studies, and ethics, and encouraging students to find a deeper understanding of nature and themselves along the way.

Offered to students in the third through sixth grades at Children’s Community School in Waterbury with support from a Connecticut Community Foundation grant, the program brings students outside to explore stream ecology and forest life. “We take the kids out in the field where they stock the rivers with fish. They measure the health of the stream by collecting data that the Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust actually uses [to] record the health of the stream,” explains JoAnne Torti, Executive Director of ASAP!. “They take this knowledge and then they bring it back to the classroom to work with our teaching artists and develop creative projects that reflect their experience in the field.”

From their observations, students create drawings, maps, and visual depictions of the interconnectedness of plants and animals within an ecosystem. Grade-specific projects integrating art, design, and engineering consider not only the science of nature, but the connections between humans and the natural world. To cap the program, students share their findings at a large expo for the school community.

Metamorphosis Project invites students to explore and express their own interests and emotions, alongside the academic content. “It’s messy. We’re messy,” Torti said. “But there’s organization in the chaos . . . so we invite all of that. We don’t say leave your emotions out the door. We say bring everything into the classroom because this is how we’re going to work.” With that approach, Metamorphosis Project fosters not only the students’ educational growth, but their personal growth as well. In the words of a student who participated in the program over several years, “I learned to look at the world from a touchpoint of creativity and realized that that spark is what really helped me progress.”