Alive and interactive from the USA;Arts in Scotland

16th January 1998 at 00:00
A project from Chicago integrates the arts within the curriculum, reports Raymond Ross.

A new arts education project aims to bring artists from Chicago into South Lanarkshire schools over the next two to three years, starting in August.

American artists will work with the Scottish schools via video conferencing, e-mail and the Internet. Lottery and other funding permitting, the London Educational Arts Partnership and the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE) will also bring artists over to work with the pupils.

"South Lanarkshire has been chosen for the project because it has established the first arts education co-ordinator post in Scotland which is not only running successfully, but is a model of good practice," says Sylvia Dow, education officer at the Scottish Arts Council, which provided the link with South Lanarkshire.

"CAPE uses the perhaps not previously well-tapped resources of artists to enrich the whole curriculum in keeping with the 5-14 guidelines," she says.

Four schools in the East Kilbride area (a secondary and three associated primaries) are discussing links with a variety of community groups to develop arts programmes that will be interwoven with the curriculum and could cover anything from early intervention to social history.

South Lanarkshire's arts education co-ordinator, Brian McGeoch, who is flying to Chicago next month to finalise details, says: "We have to make the CAPE model work in our way. Unlike Chicago, 15 per cent of our curriculum is devoted to the arts. Whatever CAPE does here, it will be within the curricular platform already established. It will address the 5-14 learning outcomes in primary and secondary schools as well as the Revised Higher and Standard grades."

The artists will be from various disciplines like literature, drama, dance, the visual arts, and will bring their own expertise to use art as a means of learning through the whole curriculum.

In Chicago the CAPE initiative is composed of 10 neighbourhood-based partnerships involving 25 Chicago public ie state schools, 52 professional arts organisations and 18 community organisations. Together these partnerships are committed to planning arts-integrated curriculums and developing innovative approaches to teaching, learning and school improvement.

Their strategy is to make arts experiences available every day for every child, "moving from an enrichmentexposure approach to an integrated curriculum approach".

Examples of integrated programmes which CAPE has evolved in America include a Music Studio Project: Maths and Music, which used music to teach addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages, graphing and the use of critical thinking skills, creative skills and group work skills.

Students worked in teams, budgeting, planning and producing a CD. Activities included discussing all elements involved in a recording studio project, including the album's content and cover, and the group's identity.

Another example, which brought together dance, language arts and social studies, was The Story of Making Clothes, which looked at economics through the clothes-making process and explored the different occupations through dance .

Students were introduced to modern dance, dance vocabulary and how to create movement, then split into groups of farmers, weavers, tailors and sellers to write the story of how clothes were made. The story was then turned into a full, narrative dance.

One possibility in Scotland would be for East Kilbride pupils to work on the Gateway sculpture project at the town centre. The sculpture of steel and neon tubes contains an information gathering unit that collects environmental data. The secondary school could process the data for use in environmental studies, social history or architecture and design.

The CAPE project also hopes to tie in to the Glasgow 1999 Year of Architecture and Design with a scheme of architects and designers in South Lanarkshire schools.

Brian McGeoch is looking forward to the impact that CAPE could have on South Lanarkshire schools. "This is an exciting opportunity to work in an international partnership that will put us in touch with novel ideas.

"These life skills, social and presentation skills are what employers are looking for now rather than subject expertise. This project addresses them in an exciting way.

"We live in an age of technological and media saturation and that's the environment the arts have to deal with. Pupils will be better equipped to deal with it through projects like CAPE."

McGeoch believes South Lanarkshire is the ideal place for this first Scottish-Chicago collaboration. "There is a pedigree of partnerships already established here with South Lanarkshire being used to working with the SAC and other outside providers.

"There are two ways of looking at arts education funding. You can have a pot of money to bestow quality arts on schools or you can produce a challenge fund that allows schools to do what they want in terms of targets and outcomes.

"I think CAPE is closer to the latter approach. It's about making the arts central to the curriculum and to the schools' individual needs in partnership with their own local communities."

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