Columbia, CPS to collaborate

By Drew Hunt

The Center for Community Arts Partnerships received a four-year grant, worth $1.1 million, from the United States Department of Education that will provide funding for a program called Transforming Education through the Arts and Media Initiative, or TEAM.

The proposal underwent a highly competitive peer review process facilitated by the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grant Program. It was one of 33 programs to receive a grant out of 200 applications reviewed, making this the third grant they’ve received in four years.

The TEAM Initiative will form a partnership with Chicago Public Schools and Columbia, in what Joanne Vena, director of School Partnerships at CCAP, said will be a collaborative process.

The project will work with seventh and eighth graders in four schools in Chicago located in Little Village, Austin, Chinatown and Portage Park.

The main goal of the TEAM Initiative is to connect Columbia media arts faculty, students and alumni with teachers and students who are a part of the CPS technology magnet cluster schools, which are specialized neighborhood schools that focus on a specific curriculum.

TEAM will promote unification between new media arts and traditional academic subjects, as well as promote the student’s development in critical thinking and problem solving.

“We’re all about the idea that if you have a student [who is] engaged, you have a student [who] wants to learn,” Vena said. “Introducing media arts into a classroom allows for more experimentation.”

David Flatley, executive director of CCAP, said he considers the program on the cutting edge of combining new media with old forms of education and communication.

“Arts integration, as a movement, has really been a strong thing over the last couple of decades,” Flatley said. “But media arts are a growing area.”

Starting this month, CCAP will recruit Columbia faculty and graduate students to work as teaching artists with the students. Individuals with skills in videography, video game design, digital photography or any kind of new media arts will be specifically sought after due to their relevance to the program.

John Lyons, who graduated from Columbia in 2005 with a film and video degree, is a part-time teaching artist with CCAP. He will be a part of the TEAM Initiative.

“I’ll [be working] with a group of maybe eight to 10 kids, maybe two days a week,” Lyons said. “They’ll be learning how to make films. It lets kids be evaluated on a totally different plane.

Lyons’ job, along with the other teaching artist working with TEAM, will be to promote academic achievement in reading, writing and math through inquiry-based learning that integrates art and technology.

“It gives the kids an opportunity to be exposed to an art form that they might not have been exposed to before,” Lyons said.

One of the main goals of the TEAM Initiative is to increase the capacity of public school teachers to deliver new kinds of instruction that integrate the arts and technology across language arts, science and math.

Vena called the notion of integrating new technologies with traditional educational practices to be the seed that leads to creating the TEAM Initiative.

“Arts integrated instruction in public schools allows the arts to have a role in the overall education of students,” Vena said. “We don’t get enough time in public schools to teach the arts freestanding.”

According to Vena, the resources of CPS only go so far, so it is imperative partnerships are built to ensure the longevity of new ideas.

Flatley said the TEAM Initiative will do its part by taking the resources at Columbia and sharing them with the community.

“It’s part of our mission to invest in the community and support the community through civic engagement,” Flatley said. “Education should never be limited to the four walls of a classroom.”