McKinley Park School—Whole School Arts Integration

The breadth of the arts integration work at McKinley Park School may be its most remarkable feature. With arts content and programming having a place in every classroom and in all of the curriculum development, McKinley Park practices true whole school arts integration.

Frances Garcia, the principal at McKinley Park, seeks classroom teachers who express openness to art and a desire to implement whole school arts integration into their classroom practice. She engages parents, staff, and the community in fundraising and in other volunteer efforts to help the school meet its goals.

Defining Arts Integration

For Frances Garcia, arts integration must provide students with authentic experiences that are ongoing and positive. “We are instilling a love of art from Pre-K on through the grades,” she says. Ms. Garcia is enthusiastic about the “dynamite teachers who are teaching the arts with a touch of culture.” Her teaching team includes bilingual support and cultural awareness teacher Alejandro Ferrer. He believes the arts integration approach has the potential to make a deep impact on students. “We are trying to captivate the science of the intellect and the soul, bringing them together to
make a complete child.”

Program Structure and Methodology

Ana Romero, a National Board certified fine arts teacher, provides visual art instruction to students in all grades during 40-minute sessions occurring two or three times each week. Her curriculum develops organically from other disciplines taught at each grade level. Other arts programs take place before and after school. Ms. Garcia directs a folkloric dance program, Mr. Ferrer directs the poetry program, and the fifth grade teacher conducts the drama program.

Leadership is a key, according to Ms. Garcia. “It starts with someone for whom the arts are a priority.” She emphasizes that if principals can communicate their positive vision of the importance of the arts, teachers will support the arts integration approach and make it a success.

Putting the Program into Action

Social studies, 3-D visual arts, dance, and cultural awareness all blended in a whole school arts integration project about the Aztec Empire. During this social studies unit, Mr. Ferrer, with the support of Ms. Garcia, worked with students, staff, parents, and other community volunteers to construct a 20-by-30-foot model of the city of Tenochtitlan. It depicted the city as it existed in 1519, when the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés first arrived in Mexico. The group’s detailed design included Tenochtitlan’s elaborate system of canals and chinampas, the artificial islands of arable land that supplied food sold in the city’s central market. The model also showed Moctezuma’s zoo, which might have been the world’s first. Students used clay, plaster, and wood to build the model. At the culmination of the project, this large-scale model was displayed at the McKinley Park School gymnasium, the rotunda of the James R. Thompson Center, and the Newberry Library. The school’s folkloric dance group performed at the opening ceremony of the library exhibition. Local newspapers chronicled the tour.