Spare Parts Helps Students Get Their Art On At Harlandale ISD STREAM Summer Program

Spare Parts was thrilled to participate in Harlandale ISD’s STREAM program during June and July this summer. Seven Spare Parts instructors hosted art programs at four campuses, all with a focus on reuse in art education. Omar Leos, the Fine Arts Coordinator for HISD says that the main goal of the program, “…is to have enrichment activities that focus on STREAM (Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). The benefits are numerous, but we want students to get excited about learning and take what they learn in the summer and apply it during the regular school year. We want them to know that all these subjects are related and tied to one another.”

The summer program originally began as a two-week Robotics camp in 2014. Harlandale ISD STEM & GT Coordinator, Anthony Khosravi, describes how the next summer they went on to establish a STEM Pipeline provided STEM-related instruction and after-school opportunities for all students interested in a STEM career or degree. Recognizing the need for a more well-rounded program, the STEM/GT department offered their first STREAM camp at Morrill Elementary School in 2015. “A little over 250 elementary students were part of the first STREAM camp,” says Khosravi. “The second STREAM summer camp was at Stonewall Elementary School, and Leal Middle School, as we began working with middle school students, and our program steadily grew to over 350 students the second year in 2016.”

This summer, the STREAM summer program expanded to six elementary schools, one middle school campus and the STEM Early College High School campus. Nearly 600 students attended the STREAM program, with 100 staff members supporting as teachers, assistants and clerical staff.

“This summer’s expansion was made possible through a district grant which was awarded to eight campuses within the district,” says Khosravi. The TEXAS ACE grant, administered by the Texas Education Agency and funded through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, was awarded to these campuses participating in the program.

The overarching goal of the Texas ACE program is to foster each student’s academic success by improving attendance, behavior and academics which lead to grade level promotion, graduation and helping students be more prepared for college and the workplace. The grant was specifically intended to help provide enrichment during non-school hours, which is imperative during the three-month hiatus from academics during the summer. While the summer program ended in July, Texas ACE will continue to provide after-school education designed to enrich student academic success on each campus.

Omar Leos oversaw the fine arts enrichment activities at all campuses, including arts workshops hosted by Spare Parts instructors. 

Some of the highlights of the program included karate, yoga, ballet, visual art, coding, robotics, xylophone and ukulele lessons. At one campus, students even worked on a musical rendition called, “Disney’s The Lion King Kids.”

To prepare for their visual arts workshops, Spare Parts instructors made a trip up to the Austin Creative Reuse Center, bringing back a van full of preloved supplies to share with the students. The instructors hit the ground rolling with students that same week.

At Adams elementary instructors Amy Jones, Amy Johnson, Gabriela Santiago and Kara Michele Salinas led students in creating an Art-A-Zon with a recycled cardboard jungle, ocean diorama binders, giant creatures, and cardboard robots.

Daniel Flores helped students at Terrell Wells Middle School create moving art with dry erase markers, 3D sculptures and bubble blowers, leftover coffee paint, floating chalk prints, fingerprint portraits, and pop art sculptures.

Junye Butler led students in creating mini box sculptures, owl paintings, yarn string balls, art inspired by music, salt dough sculptures and more at Stonewall/Flanders Elementary.

At Collier Elementary, students created a number of projects including bird mobiles, cork sailboats, recycled sea creatures, space collages, and much, much more with Dezarre Boone.

Kara Salinas, who taught in July at Adams elementary, created her lessons and project ideas in May and June. “But [I] followed closely the progress of all the schools [as the other instructors taught]. I really did not want to revisit a technique or project by accident when it was my turn to teach. I used cardboard as did the other teachers. I wanted to focus teaching the process to change the cardboard, and create items that were not immediately recognized as cardboard, Salinas said. “Teaching for the STREAM program really forced me to create lessons that were part of a bigger concept like structure, vocabulary, or modeling the color spectrum. This program was not a summer of craft making. I am thoroughly impressed by the knowledge of the participating students, and their willingness to work together. I learned a lot from the students participating in STREAM. I will never forget this experience.”

Throughout the camp, Spare Parts made it a point to emphasize the importance of reuse to the students. And although it took some habit breaking leading kids away from the garbage bin, it was inspiring to see how the students ran with the ideas given to them.

Retail Intervention: Omar Leos


Omar Leos
Omar Leos

Name: Omar Leos

Title: Theatre Educator

Thoughts on thrifting:
  I started thrift store shopping in college where I always found one-of-a-kind, unique items. I especially shopped for shoes, clothing & artwork for my apartment. Thrift store finds became part of my style. After college, I became a secondary  theatre teacher. I shied  away from selecting period plays to perform  because I could not afford to rent or have costumes made for my student actors. This was very limiting.

Leos at Boysville Thrift Store
Leos at Boysville Thrift Store

My entire 
perceptive changed when I came across Costuming Made Easy: How to Make Theatrical Costumes from Cast-Off Clothing by Barb Rogers at a Texas Educational Theatre Association (TETA) conference. I looked at the book, thought it could be relatively easy & I decided to try some of the techniques out. The first play I created my own costumes for was Lapis Blue Blood Red by Cathy Caplan that takes place during the Italian Renaissance period. Ever since then, I truly believe you don’t have to spend a lot of money or buy anything new for costuming a play. It was empowering & exciting: I combined my love of thrifting with theatre education. Now, I present at theatre conventions & workshops on how to create period costumes from thrift store finds.


How do you thrift like a theatre educator?

Any type of formal, prom or wedding dress can be manipulated to suit your costume need. You can dye dresses and add on the upholstry fabric/bedskirt/etc. to fit the time period for your play.
All types of formal, informal, prom or wedding dress can be manipulated to suit your costume need. You can dye dresses a& add on the upholstery fabric,bedskirt, etc. to fit the time period for your play.
Curtains, upholstery fabric, bed skirts & table cloths can be used for Renaissance, Medieval & Restoration-period costumes. I look for these items first because I can cut & sew pieces to existing clothing items. I always research the type of clothing for every show I’m doing & create a costume “bible.” I find pictures of costumes I’m looking for. Remember: when you go thrift store shopping, you won’t always find the exact costume you’re looking for. I have to constantly remind myself of this. Always be flexible, creative & open to interpretation!
This is an Old Navy summer dress I found at a thrift store. Because I added a lace curtain collar around the neckline & I instantly created a 1930/40’s-style dress. Disclamer: I do not know how to sew. My sewing skills are very minimal. I hand sew & use a glue gun quite a bit.
Always select women’s suits for male period costumes. Why? Women’s pants & jackets are more fitted than men’s. Men’s clothing between the years 1600-1900 generally had higher waists, weren’t baggy & were more tailored to the body. Women’s suits help with this silhouette. It’s another shortcut I use that saves time & money.
I always grab petticoats when I see them at thrift stores because they are cheap (over $100 retail/new)! You can use them for any period piece to make dresses fuller. In West Side Story at Edison High School, we shortened thrift store dresses, added petticoats underneath & presto– we had mambo dresses!
Here’s a picture from our performance Lapis Blue Blood Red by Cathy Caplan. The girl’s costume in the foreground has multiple components. The dark brown sleeveless top is the from a prom dress I dyed. Her skirt is floor-length & velvet. I added a bed skirt and upholstery fabric to the front of the skirt. The white long-sleeved blouse was used as a pirate shirt in another play.
Here’s another costume from the same play. The pants found at a thrift store are women’s Gap khakis that I cropped. The red jacket comes from a women’s skirt suit–I took off the sleeves. Underneath this coat is another black women’s suit jacket that I slit down the sides & then added green table cloth for trim. The ruffled collar is curtain trim we fastened around his neck (it’s a separate piece from the shirt). A leather belt was added on top of the costume (it’s hard to see in this picture) to make the costume more fitted to the actor’s waist.
RETAIL INTERVENTION logo designed by Chris Castillo. Photos courtesy Chris Castillo & Omar Leos.
The thrift store we browsed for this outing was the Boysville Thrift Store. Address: 307 W. Olmos Dr. - San Antonio, 78212
Boysville Thrift Store: 307 W. Olmos Dr. – San Antonio, 78212

Giving trees a REnewed life at Briscoe Academy

Omar A. Leos, SAISD’s Coordinator of Visual/Theatre Arts & spare parts Founder Mary E. Cantu at Briscoe Academy.
Pre-K teacher Oralia Lopez shows us some of the materials donated to her classroom after WOAI News 4 featured spare parts with a story this fall.

Today, Omar Leos & I judged Christmas tree artwork created by the talented Pre-K students of Briscoe Academy. He’s a big supporter of spare parts & is already saving donations at home for the next supplies/materials drive (date TBD)! The materials 4 Pre-K classes used for their holiday-inspired creations came from a donor who saw Lopez on TV through a WOAI News 4 story about spare parts & contacted her directly (AWESOME). As you can tell, Leos & I had trouble deciding the winners.