Artists work with Garden Hills students

Artists work with Garden Hills students

CHAMPAIGN — Making posters and dancing in the cafeteria are fun activities for students.

But they're also ways for students to examine their own identities and express what they know.

That's what artists from Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education spent Thursday teaching students at Garden Hills Elementary in Champaign.

They'll return Friday to work with the students on screen-printing posters and using dance to show balance and a willingness to take risks.

The goal of the organization's lessons is to integrate the arts into the classroom and prepare students for a world that's focused on visualizations, said Arnold Aprill, the organization's founder and lead consultant.

"We want to expand the ways kids know they can be smart," Aprill said.

International Baccalaureate schools, especially, continue to focus on the arts as a part of core curriculums, even when it's disappearing in other schools.

Garden Hills is a candidate school for accreditation through the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program.

"It's a very important part of a well-rounded curriculum," Aprill said, and it's especially important to get art teachers and classroom teachers collaborating.

Teaching artists William Estrada and Ashley Winston were there to use art to help the kids explain and go deeper into the attributes International Baccalaureate encourages for students.

Those include learning to be inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk-takers, and principled, knowledgeable, caring, open-minded, well-balanced and reflective individuals.

The qualities took center stage as Estrada spoke with a group of students, asking them to choose an attribute they especially identified with.

Then, they have to say why that's true for them.

Friday, they'll screen-print the phrase onto a poster-size sheet of paper and add an image of themselves. The result will be a colorful photo of the student, with the phrase, "My name is (blank), and I am a (attribute here) student because ...." One copy will stay at school, and each student will take one copy home, he said.

Estrada said one student nailed the concept in a Thursday morning class, saying, "We're introducing ourselves to Garden Hills."

Estrada showed his own example, which said he's a risk-taking student because he learns from his mistakes. On his poster, an accidently included "E" in the word "mistakes" was boldly crossed out.

Estrada also spoke with the students about planning their art and about thinking of ways to communicate the message they're hoping to convey.

Nearby, in the cafeteria, Winston went over the different definitions of the word "balance," with another group of students.

Then, they stood in a circle, and one would show off a balanced movement in the middle, with both sides of the body moving in the same way.

She'd remind them, as they danced: "Look at your arms? Are your arms balanced? Now take it to someone."

The student would dance toward another, who'd then repeat that move to the center. Then, he or she would say, "But I want to do ..." and show off another unique movement.

Then, Winston lined up students across the room and chose one student to teach a balanced dance move to the group.

Garden Hills Principal Cheryl O'Leary said the school's partnership with the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education aims to expose Garden Hills students to the arts and teach them how to express themselves in different ways.

She said she hopes students who enjoy this week's activities seek more information about print-making and expressive dance, and that those arts will become lifelong passions.

These artistic abilities and others can encourage students can take on those attributes that International Baccalaureate highlights.

"These are things that are globally accepted," she said.

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