Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE)

Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE) envisions itself as “a living laboratory” where a community of artists and teachers break new ground in arts education as they work to infuse arts throughout the curriculum. Since 1992, CAPE has supported research and practice on effective teaching and learning through the arts and documented information on methodology and pedagogical approaches. To find more about their work, see www.capeweb.org and Renaissance in the Classroom: Arts Integration and Meaningful Learning. More than 200 participants in the CAPE network contributed to this CAPE publication.

Defining Arts Integration

In the CAPE laboratory, arts integration occurs because arts learning is explicitly connected to other academic learning. Teachers and artist partners work together as co-planners and co-teachers. CAPE’s Executive Director, Amy Rasmussen, adds, “Through arts integration, educators create dynamic intellectual challenges while providing opportunities for all students to represent their learning in multiple media.”

Program Structure and Methodology

CAPE bases its model of instruction on John Dewey’s premise that optimal learning takes place when people have real and substantive problems to solve or questions to answer. In CAPE practice, this becomes an inquiry approach, one that Ms. Rasmussen sees as having specific benefits for arts integration. “Through our arts curriculum development, we identify common themes and ideas across networks of classrooms and schools.” She finds that inquiry offers opportunities for collaboration and sharing of successful practices. “It’s a process that does not put in place a set of pre-designed activities, but creates a common approach for addressing curriculum content and standards, with ample freedom for creativity, and room for developing a wide-range of effective teaching strategies based on the needs of individual learners.”

Putting the Program into Action

CAPE’s residencies, programs, and units combine learning in academic subject areas with rigorous training in arts practices. In an arts integration unit at Mark Sheridan Academy, fourth grade students met photo and video production arts objectives as they learned about history through biographies of famous inventors.

During the unit, the fine arts teacher instructed fourth graders on camera technology, shots, angles, and artistic expression through film. Students then practiced with digital still cameras and camcorders. Students also researched specific information about the inventors. This research served as a springboard for the student-written biographical stories, which were the content of the student videos. Students helped create a rubric and used it multiple times. They applied it as they watched their initial footage and made decisions about what to change, what to cut, and what effects to add. The teachers and teaching artists used it to evaluate student performances, filming technique, content, and storyline. They also used it to determine how well the students were able to self-assess their work.