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The Changing Climate of Art, Education, and Mental Health

CAPE (Chicago Arts in Partnership in Education) is a non-profit organization that collaborates with communities throughout the Chicagoland area, bringing art expression and exploration into the classroom and community! Read the Q&A below to learn more about Sunglow Counseling Media Specialist Amelia Cintula's experience working with this organization.

How does this organization work with K-12 students, educators, artists, parents, and community members?

CAPE is a free after-school program for K-12 students, with both a teacher from that school or community and a teaching artist. Additionally, CAPE offers parent classes which are often held at the school and virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CAPE organization pairs with schools throughout the Chicagoland area, co-creating grants that support the cost of supplies, snacks, field trips, and teacher/artist facilitation.

" I have seen the impact CAPE has had on the West Chicago community - the relationships built between students, artists, teachers, and their parents and community members are built from the foundation of mutual love of the arts, respect for the cultural diversity of students, and the hope to inspire future generations of artists and teachers. " - Amelia Cintula

How does art and the action of creating art impact mental health?

The way mental, social, and emotional well-being is addressed and taught in public education is changing. Many schools are now offering SEL (Social emotional learning) alongside their regular curriculum, giving students the toolset to cope with many behavioral and social/emotional challenges that they may face at specific grade or age levels. With more opportunities for social-emotional growth, learning, and discussion about mental health, it is no surprise that the CAPE organization also plays a role in the current push for mental health advocacy in our future generation. Research from the CAPE organization shows an increase in student confidence and improved academic grades resulting from mentorship and opportunities through CAPE.

CAPE encourages equity and autonomy for their student artists. The program utilizes inquiry-based learning, which is a method that encourages students to take on a role of leadership in their own learning process. This may look like an open studio classroom or projects that center around each student's individual interests. In many cases, students may even be able to take on the role of teachers in the classroom as they lead, teach their classmates, or influence the direction a project takes. In this process, students begin to build their confidence and find their own voice, leading to making new connections, and friendships, all while developing their sense of self along the way.

Equity is also crucial in the learning process. When a student does not feel supported or heard in the classroom, they may become isolated, withdrawn, and unmotivated to learn. The co-teaching strategy of including both a teacher and artist allows for modifications to supplies, techniques, and subject matter to promote student advocacy and autonomy. This may look like using different tools for students who may face obstacles in their fine motor skills, or allowing students more time to focus on a project of their interest. Equity highlights that education, art, and mental health is not a "one size fits all" solution, but rather a process of modifications, and opportunities for growth and support when needed.

Last school year, CAPE’s programs reached more than 3,772 students in Chicagoland schools.

How can you become involved?

It all begins with sharing an idea! Bringing awareness to organizations like CAPE is a free way to advocate for positive change in our communities. You can support future generations by highlighting the need or want for organizations such as CAPE in your community or school district.

Another way to support non-profit organizations can be through volunteering your time or making donations including supplies that organizations can use for their classroom. It is important to highlight that no action is too small, with every post, donation, or volunteered time directly impacting both the children and the community as a whole.

CAPE teachers and teaching artists spent 14,612 hours learning, teaching, and growing in 2021-2022.

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