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Arts education from across the pond

Last month, three teaching artists were in Chicago to share ideas, best practice and strategies on bringing arts to the whole curriculum. The visit was part of an exchange programme in partnership with the Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP) Columbia College Chicago and builds on the Scottish Arts Council’s work on the Arts Across the Curriculum programme.

Teaching artists from Chicago will be making a return visit to Scotland in June. Meanwhile, poet Elspeth Murray shares her experiences from the trip.

‘I valued the opportunity to observe classroom practice with my poet partner, Chicago artist  Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein. Since I first heard about ‘arts integration’ – combining artistic disciplines with unlikely seeming curricular subjects – I’d been fascinated with the idea of doing maths with poetry. Sorry – in USA terms that should be math and poetry. The students at Crown Academy in Chicago think it’s kinda weird that in Scotland we say maths. But they were pretty game for combining maths as taught by their teacher with poetry as taught by Amanda.

‘The students, aged about 14, already knew that mathematical functions can be expressed graphically, concretely, numerically, algebraically and verbally. While we were there in their classroom, they also discovered ways of creating ‘audacious poetic conditional functions’. Amanda’s ‘if/when/then’ exercise involved them working in pairs. Without letting on what they were thinking, one thought up an ‘if’ statement and the other a ‘then’ statement. Here are some of the combined results:

If I was a can,
then we would all live on the moon.

If you stop licking your lips,
then you will wear tight pants.

If I get an A in math class,
then pizza will always be for breakfast.

If I read a book,
then tigers would sleep in my classroom.

If a giant learned algebra,
then you would get smaller.

If you look on the sole of your shoe,
then flowers will bloom.

If I was the sky,
then you'd have to do the lean wit-it, rock wit-it.

If I go to school,
then I'll love you forever.

Another poetry exercise involved a variant on a well-known mathematical function. When x = words and y = lines, if x=y then you’ve got a square poem. And what would it mean to square your name? Count the letters in your name and write a poem with that many words in each of that number of lines. Simple!

L E R O Y (5 letters)

Say hi and good bye
See you again another time
When life is just right
See you in high school
See you in college years

T Y L E S H I A (8 letters)

I am short, silly, and really kind, small.
Every day I wonder if I were tall.
I am little, but I have a big
Dream. A dream that is more than it
May seem. I am a cool person to
be around. I like to walk and shop
all over town. So I am true and
me, the best that I can always be.

It was also a real pleasure to recite for them my mathematical poem Infinity www.elspethmurray.com/Poems/poems_infinity.htm which they have subsequently studied with their teacher in more detail.

So what’s my audacious poetic conditional function now?

If I get to teach poetry with maths in Scotland,
then I'll love Chicago forever.

Find out More

Related Internet links
* Amanda's Blog
* Elspeth Murray
* Center for Community Arts Partnerships, Chicago, USA
* Arts Across the Curriculum Programme
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