For fifteen years, the Daniel DiTondo Foundation has sponsored arts programming for children in Washington, DC. More recently, we’ve partnered with some of the District’s top non-profit organizations to provide summer camps that combine art education and environmental awareness. These camps, free to Washington, DC public school students, feature classes about the Anacostia River integrated with art projects related to the waterway.
While at camp, students combine their studies of art and watershed science in exciting ways. They walk along a stream to get to know the water and the wildlife, and then pick up trash to repurpose into art and compose poetry about the river. They build model rain gardens after learning about how water moves more naturally through vegetated land than on asphalt or concrete. They study local wildlife and then create animal masks representing the animals they’ve learned about. A highlight of the camp experience is a pontoon boat ride on the Anacostia River.
Beginning in 2015, the Daniel DiTondo Foundation has teamed up with CPDC, an organization that manages affordable housing complexes in Washington, DC, to operate our free camp in a DC housing complex. Our campers were able to walk downstairs to their camp rather than having to find transportation. We hope to build on this successful model to serve more DC students through programs in their own apartments buildings, hoping to take them into a wider world of creativity, science, and nature.
Programs like ours, which broaden the perspective of young minds, really work to change lives. One of our former teachers from the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design is living proof of this fact: she grew up in the DC public schools and chose a career in art because of a program like ours that took her on a field trip to the Smithsonian. The experience changed her life, just as the programs of the Daniel DiTondo Foundation are changing the lives of the current generation of students.