CAPE Events: NAEA Chicago Tour of CAPE Programs

 In Gary Kafer, The CAPE Blog

CAPE recently facilitated a pre-conference tour for participants in the National Art Education Association Convention, which was held in Chicago for 2016. Led by CAPE’s Education Director Scott Sikkema, Program and Research Coordinator Gary Kafer, and Programming Intern Hoyeon Kim, the tour highlighted arts integration practices in three CAPE schools, as well as the various approaches that CAPE teachers and teaching artists adopt while creating their classroom projects. With an audience that included classroom and museum educators, school administrators, and university faculty, the tour showcased the exciting breadth, intensity, and experimentation in arts integration practices in three unique contexts.

Arts + Academics

The first visit of the day took the group to Waters Elementary in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. A K-8 elementary school that has worked with CAPE since 1996, Waters not only integrates the arts with traditional academic content areas, but also with the natural sciences in the school’s outdoor gardens and ecology laboratory. CAPE and Waters launched an after-school program in 2004 that is now in its 12th school year! Principal Titia Crespo welcomed the group with remarks on the great importance of arts integration in the school’s promising vision for expanding notions of student achievement beyond test scores and metrics. (click here to watch a CAPE video featuring Principal Crespo)

NAEA Chicago - Amy Vecchioni explains murals in the Waters hallwaysVisual Arts teacher Amy Vecchioni and Ecology Coordinator Pete Leki then spoke to the group about their individual and collaborative approaches to integration in and outside of their classrooms. Amy in particular provided specific examples of the ways in which she collaborates with classroom teachers in varying content areas, such as biology and language arts, and across grades. Through sharing about their teaching practice at Waters, Amy and Pete introduced the group to the creative and critical potential of arts integration in a school community that consists of families from a broad range of racial, class, and ethnic backgrounds. Amy ended the group’s visit with a tour through the school, elaborating on the past CAPE mural and mosaic projects that are on display in the hallways.

Arts + Culture

After Waters, the NAEA tour participants traveled to Little Village to visit another longtime CAPE partner, Telpochcalli Elementary. Telpochcalli was founded in 1996 when a group of CAPE teachers from Spry Elementary decided to develop their own school based on the principles of bilingual education, the arts, and Mexican culture. Telpochcalli is a model of arts integration with numerous in-school and after-school programs that incorporate and expand the school’s dual language emphasis through a range of curricula in visual arts, multimedia, sound, and social practice. Over lunch, the group heard from Principal Tamara Witzl, who expounded on the history of the school and the ways in which the faculty and administration generate a sense of community for the students and provide opportunities for creative self-expression and identity exploration. (click here to watch a CAPE video featuring Principal Witzl)

NAEA Chicago - William Estrada speaks to the tour group in TelpochcalliWilliam Estrada, a veteran CAPE teaching artist and Artist in Residence at Telpochcalli, then discussed the school’s specific approach to dual language arts integration, citing examples from in-school and after-school classes.William emphasized his view of failure as a pedagogical tool that not only allows students freedom to create without consequences, but also the space to explore personal and communal identities, issues, and futures. Discussion at Telpochcalli focused on the ways in which arts integration broadens the way we think about student achievement, and also the particular position that diversity and identity plays in student development and intellectual environments. The group then went on a tour of the building to see how the school showcases community and identity in their murals and displays of student work.

Arts + Community

The last stop of the day was Daniel Hale Williams Preparatory School of Medicine in Bronzeville to meet classroom teacher Phil Cotton and teaching artist Margy Stover, a CAPE teaching team that has worked together for fourteen years. Phil and Margy’s projects rely on design and architectural practices to address social issues, and they shared their favorite projects with the tour participants: The “Identity Museums, which showcase student identities, and the “Chair Project,” in which students questioned why chairs are different and what they mean within the construct of the academic institution. Phil and Margy particularly emphasized the importance of looking beyond the classroom walls for inspiration, noting that everywhere one looks, there is potential for a project the critically investigates the world and students’ places in it.

NAEA Chicago - A Williams Prep student shares her work with the tour groupThe highlight of the afternoon for many attendees was their visit with five current students in Phil and Margy’s class, who presented their work and fielded questions from the tour group. Currently, these students are investigating a nearby building, in order to conceive of ways to re-design the building to serve as a community center. That building was formerly Overton Elementary, which was one of 50 schools closed by CPS in 2013. With ideas that included a recording studio, study spaces, and a produce market, the students displayed their models, drawings, and drafts for the new spaces that would address their community’s needs. The students remarked that because of their work in an arts integrated classroom, they are able to apply new skills to other classes in their school. One student in particular described how her work on the Overton Building Project taught her that all types of research and projects are processes that require multiple stages of experimentation, failure, redesign, and editing in order to achieve a final project. Another student also remarked that she appreciates the partnership between Phil and Margy because she is able to observe how collaboration is valuable not only for students, but also for adults.

Through Lines

By linking the conversations at each of the three schools, the tour emphasized the theory and practice behind CAPE’s implementation of arts integration. Tour participants were witness to the incredible relationships that exist between educators, students, and communities at our CAPE schools, as well as the enthusiasm and passion that our teachers and teaching artists have for creating projects based on mutual interests, deep questions, and student-driven learning.  If you’d like to learn more yourself about our partnerships with schools like Waters, Telpochcalli, and Williams Prep, please check out our CAPE Basics or join us for a Field Trip!

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