Flint Hills Summer Fun Camp


Kathrine Schlageck

Phone: (785) 532-7718

Email: klwalk@k-state.edu

Purpose of the Collaboration:

The Flint Hills Summer Fun Camp is a community response to greater awareness and increased diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. There is strong interest in helping autistic children develop language and other communication skills, and the program helps the children put visual knowledge into words, listen to others, and disagree productively. The K-State Beach Museum of Art education staff contributes facilitated Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) discussions to this community collaboration and assists USD 383 para-professionals working with students on the autism spectrum to develop training programs. The camp serves about 60 children each summer, with two one-month semesters. The museum provides programming to each classroom on Mondays as well as one or two field trips to the museum each summer.

Length of Partnership:

9 years

Community Partners:

Manhattan-Ogden Public Schools (USD 383)

Community Impact:

The Flint Hills Summer Fun Camp is especially supportive to children and families living with autism. The integration with neurotypical children helps diminish misunderstandings and promotes peer learning for both groups. Students come from outlying rural communities and from as far away as Kansas City. The camp is considered a model and each summer there are visitors who take back ideas to their own communities. Museum staff have shared VTS information with these observers. Museum educators have served as consultants to the Education Department at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, providing instruction and evaluation materials. They contributed to a study by the University of St. Andrews, “Museums for All: Toward Inclusion for Users with Autism Spectrum Disorders.” There are also eight classroom teachers and about 20 para-professionals each summer who also benefit. The museum staff also responds to community needs, providing two additional programs per week at the museum during the month of June while the KSTART research project was in progress.

Institutional Partners:

Kansas State University Beach Museum of Art; Departments of Landscape Architecture, Drama and Music Therapy, and Special Education; K-State Autism Research Team, UFM Community Learning Center

Institutional Impact:

The Flint Hills Summer Fun Camp has provided the museum with an opportunity to carry out original research on the usefulness of VTS protocols in working with students on the autism spectrum and to exploit its surprising ability to engage students with a wide range of cognitive and social abilities. Two formal research projects have emerged from the camp and are being prepared for publication: “Visual Thinking Strategies as Intervention for AS (Autism Spectrum) and ADHD (Attention-Deficit Disorder/Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)”, a museum study presented at the South Eastern Museums Conference (October 2017) and to the Visual Thinking Strategies Summer Institute (July 2014), and “Playing Naturally,” a cross-departmental research collaboration between the museum and the Colleges of Architecture, Planning, and Design and Human Ecology. The project also represents the university and its land-grant mission to improve the lives of people in the region.