Mason Community Arts Academy and Mason Game and Technology Academy Go Virtual This Summer
May 7, 2020
Together, MCAA and MGTA—both a part of the College of Visual and Performing Arts—will offer more than 80 camps and classes from mid-June to the end of August.
For many, summertime in our region means summer camp. Families eagerly look forward to sending their emerging artists, future game designers, and STEM pioneers to enriching summer camps through George Mason University’s Mason Community Arts Academy (MCAA) and Mason Game and Technology Academy (MGTA). Summer 2020 is no different, and area families want to know if MCAA and MGTA will continue to offer summer learning opportunities that spark creativity, nurture artistry, improve problem solving skills, and build critical thinking abilities all from the safety of home. The answer is a resounding YES! Registration is now open for a variety of virtual theater, music, visual art, and film & video camps for students ages five to adult through the MCAA, and game design, computer programming, and machine learning/AI courses for students ages nine to adult through the MGTA. Together, MCAA and MGTA—both a part of the College of Visual and Performing Arts—will offer more than 80 camps and classes from mid-June to the end of August.
Since the COVID-19 crisis emerged and Mason announced all on campus events would be cancelled (now through August 8, 2020), staff and faculty at both academies have been diligently working to transform their current spring and now summer programs from traditional face-to-face learning to digital platforms. Elizabeth Curtis, Director of the Mason Community Arts Academy, reflects, “I am pleased and proud of the work implemented to keep the arts alive in our community. During these unprecedented times, MCAA has had to find new ways to stay connected with our families.” Kaity Cookson Ormesher, MCAA showcase teaching artist, adds, “Parents and students have been enthusiastic and flexible as we try new online options, and have repeatedly expressed how much they appreciate the consistency during this strange time. We are learning new methods for teaching alongside our students as they learn new methods for learning!”
The MCAA is using the wealth of knowledge gained during the spring and applying that to its MCAA Summer Online Programs 2020. Associate Director of the MCAA and Director of Acting for Young People Mary Lechter shares that “students will receive a mix of live-streamed interactive classes, individualized and group learning, and enriching video resources, all taught by the same experienced, professional faculty. The MCAA Online Summer Programming will offer a unique, safe, and engaging environment that will inspire young artists, as well as provide a positive outlet for students and families during these challenging times.”
Each program offers a unique learning experience. Based on students’ age and developmental stages, the faculty have developed a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning methods. Students will spend their day with a combination of live-streamed classes with individualized or group learning and supplemental resources, such as videos, reading materials, and one-on-one coaching, ensuring the most meaningful online education. MCAA instructors will closely monitor each student’s learning progress with guidance, constructive feedback, and individual check-ins. Each program will have a Virtual Class Assistant on hand to troubleshoot on-site technology issues and to monitor for any disruptive behavior that hinders the progress of a class.
Parents and students have been enthusiastic and flexible as we try new online options, and have repeatedly expressed how much they appreciate the consistency during this strange time. We are learning new methods for teaching alongside our students as they learn new methods for learning.
Kaity Cookson Ormesher, MCAA showcase teaching artist
The MCAA’s Summer online programming includes 78 programs, including 71 camps for children ages five to 18 in acting, music, film & video, and visual art. Some highlights of the catalog include the award-winning Acting for Young People Summer Camps for ages 5-18 and Music Theater Vocal Bootcamp for ages 7-11. In collaboration with the School of Music, MCAA is offering Music Intensive for band and orchestra instrumentalists ages 13-18. Visual artists can look forward to Jumpstart Online: Portfolio Prep for ages 13-18, and there is even something for the youngest budding artist in the home with Creative Discoveries for ages 6-8. Also, the MCAA is offering five Kodály and Orff Schulwerk music teacher supplemental classes and two adult visual art classes, including Introduction to Drawing and Oil Painting. See the complete catalog.
Like the MCAA, the MGTA, which is part of the nationally acclaimed Mason Computer Game Design Program and the Virginia Serious Game Institute (VSGI), is offering exciting and engaging STEM & Game learning opportunities through its Summer 2020 Virtual Academy. In addition to the renowned MGTA-Envision Honors Program for high school students and the nationally recognized MGTA Preparatory Program for ages 9 to adult, the MGTA is launching a new cutting-edge AI Academy for students ages 14 to adult.
MGTA Founder and Director Vera Lichtenberg enthuses, “the MGTA has a long tradition of providing students the opportunity to develop new skills and knowledge that helps them prepare for the STE(A)M fields of the future. For us, the transition to virtual was a logical next step. Each summer, demand from students nationally, and even worldwide increases. Some of these students are unable to attend our residential on-site program due to cost, commute time, or other factors. Now that our courses are available online, we are excited to be able to engage a broader group of students and meet this demand. Our faculty and Instructors are used to teaching courses online, making them engaging, interactive, and fun. They are ready to share their expertise and mentor students this summer!”
For the 2020 Summer Virtual Academy, each class offering will include a mix of live-streamed interactive learning experiences combined with team and/or virtual classroom research, design, and creation time, as well as help sessions from Teaching Assistants. All of the courses will be taught by full-time Mason Faculty and their most advanced undergraduate and graduate students. The MGTA-Envision Honors and the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Academy Classes, and most of the Prep courses, will feature live guest lectures, presentations, and Q & A sessions from game developers, game studio founders, AI pioneers, even a game designer mathematician, along with other STEM and industry leaders. For the pre-college courses, students will also be able to have a virtual tour of the Virginia Serious Game Institute, to meet the founders of the exciting start-ups, and learn about their products and experiences.
Highlights of the 2020 Summer MGTA programming includes:
- Roblox Game Development for ages 9-14
- Python for ML/AI: Part 1 and Machine Learning/AI with Python: Part 2 for students ages 14-18
- Art Modeling and Animation for 3D Games for high schoolers.
Both the Mason Community Arts Academy and Mason Game and Technology Academy will miss having students walking the halls and working in classrooms this summer. Still, the dedicated staff and faculties have worked hard to develop uniquely crafted creative and educational experiences aimed to inspire, engage, and motivate learners from home. Registration for both the MCAA and MGTA is now open and will continue until courses begin in June.
There is a limited number of needs-based scholarships for both the MCAA and MGTA. A 10% discount is available for current Mason faculty and staff. For more information about scholarships and faculty and staff discounts, please email the MCAA office or the MGTA office.