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Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE Co-Lab), arts integration project at Bret Harte Elementary School, Chicago, IL, 2016

Big Idea: empathy and acceptance of self and others. Inquiry: how can visual art and literacy strategies promote empathy and acceptance with diversity? Standards addressed: Literacy, Speaking & Listening Common Core Standards. Art media and processes used: ipad photography and accordion book making. 12 week collaboration, 30 4th grade students, one school teacher and one teaching artist. 

Bret Harte Elementary School is located on the south side of Chicago. The classroom had experienced some behavioural issues and bullying that motivated us to do a project about making assumptions and prejudging others, the causes and consequences, and how can photography help us to enhance perception, change our point of view and develop acceptance. The goal was to improve the relationships among students, specially the ones with a history of bullying, using photography as a tool to know each other, construct realities, negociate power dynamics, express emotions, generate visibility, and change the way we create memories. Through a series of exercises, the participants practiced basic formal and conceptual strategies taking photographs with the classroom´s ipads. Careful observation, changing perspectives, and spending time together were suggestions from the students to improve and practice empathy through photography. Working in groups of two, each student had to create a photo accordion book about her/his partner, ending up with two books per group. This allowed them to be the observer and the observed, revealing unfamiliar and familiar aspects of each other. By the end of the collaboration, the partnerships and photo experiences helped to repair relationships and developed new ones, and students realized that what matters is being respectful and open to new experiences together, not if they like each other or not.