Bringing Arts and Culture Experiences to Our Students

Leveraging the Role of Arts and Culture in Driving Student Development

Forbes magazine recently featured an article entitled “Why Field Trips And Arts Education Aren’t Just Frills” discussing the impact of arts enrichment and cultural exposure on students as a means to “[increase] students’ tolerance, empathy and ability to understand life in another time and place”.  The article discusses recent studies conducted that measure the impacts of such programming as “fewer disciplinary infractions and better writing scores…[and] elementary students were more likely to be engaged in school and aspire to attend college.”

Even before articles and studies like this discussed and/or advocated for arts and cultural enrichment programs, AUSL was making them a priority across its network of neighborhood Chicago public schools. Through network and philanthropic supports, AUSL strives to ensure each student has multiple curated opportunities to see, hear, and participate in programming across their city and in their schools that set fire to their imagination and creativity.  Hear about a few of those opportunities below.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Welcomes AUSL’s Second Graders

Two years ago, AUSL’s Manager of Curricular Enhancements, Heather Davis, began a partnership with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (“CSO”) to begin students’ exposure to culturally enriching experiences as early as possible. “Art saves lives; arts exposure early in life sparks inspiration, makes connections and fosters the foundation of creativity”, says Davis.

Second graders from across AUSL’s 26 elementary schools participate in a field trip to visit and hear the CSO.  With a second year under the belt, AUSL is considering how to integrate the purpose and impact of the visits into the 2nd grade curriculum in our schools.

Jon Weber, the CSO’s Director of School and Family Programs says, “Orchestral music is a lens through which we explore the past and imagine the future…[This partnership] strives to develop meaningful, personal relationships [for students] through music that help build students’ understanding of [themselves] and the world around us”.  

I saw students watching and mimicking the musicians and the conductor…[they] enjoyed the mix of theater and music. Overall, the experience helped to build a foundation for learning about what an ensemble does and how it relates to teamwork.

– Victoria Winslow, 2nd Grade Teacher, Chalmers School of Excellence

The Auditorium Theater Expands Students’ Exposure to Drama and Dance

For the last seven years, each class of fourth graders across AUSL’s network of Chicago public elementary schools get to attend one performance at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theater.  Davis says, “We’ve seen these performances, with their deep cultural interconnections, connect deeply with students over the years”. 

[The performance] reminded me…of Martin Luther King (Jr.)…he was trying so hard to stop racism and…trying to give everybody the freedom they needed and deserved.

– Fourth Grade Student

Building on this partnership, some schools within AUSL participate in ArtsXchange where Auditorium Theater teaching artists conduct residencies that connect with and build upon teacher lesson plans and professional development.  Some non-AUSL CPS schools have scaled this partnership as well.

Bringing Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to AUSL’s Fifth Graders at The Goodman Theater

For the last 10 years, AUSL founder Martin “Mike” Koldyke has ensured that each fifth grader in AUSL’s network of elementary schools has had the opportunity to experience theater and literature at its finest with a field trip during the holidays to the Goodman Theater’s production of Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol”.  Roche Schulfer, the Goodman Theater’s Executive Director told Crain’s this past holiday season for an article on the 10th anniversary of this tradition, that Mr. Koldyke and AUSL’s work to “bring young people, many of whom haven’t had a theater experience before, to see a fantastic experience…is unique”. Not only do our students have an opportunity to experience high-quality theater, but also celebrate the season in a new and different way.

Herzl students love using the city as their classroom, and experiencing performances at the Goodman definitely afford those opportunities.  Students not only experience the arts outside of their classrooms and school, but experiences at the Goodman opens their eyes to how the arts afford a whole new world.  As students experience the Goodman over the years, they have a greater appreciation for the arts, creativity, and are much more comfortable performing in front of audiences, big or small.

Principal Tamara Davis, Herzl School of Excellence

Woven into the culture and routine at AUSL schools is early and repeated exposure to the Arts in a variety of forms, ensuring we feed all aspects of a student’s social-emotional development, and their ability to grow and think dynamically.  As we look forward, AUSL is committed to providing even more opportunities to increase our students’ access and exposure to well-rounded education.

Stay tuned to see/hear about our Battle of the Choirs happening this weekend at Collins Academy High School!