In the fall of school year 1997-98, the Cecil County Public Schools Fine Arts Department and community arts education consortium, ArtsReach, developed an innovative and far-reaching project titled CREATE, Community Resources to Enhance the Arts and Team-teaching Efforts. This project was a response to the Fine Arts Initiative grant request distributed by the Maryland State Department of Education throughout Maryland schools.
The priority focus of these grants was to promote local school curriculum alignment with the Maryland Essential Learner Outcomes for the Fine Arts. Funding in the amount of $20,000 was awarded to the Cecil County Board of Education by the Maryland State Department of Education to support this project. In the Spring of1999, Cecil County applied for and was awarded a Goals 2000 grant, in the amount of $75, 000, that allowed for the integration of dance and theatre into the existing second, third and sixth grade curricula at eight county schools. This has been accomplished through the collaboration of general classroom teachers and dance/theatre specialists. The initial CREATE program afforded by the Goals 2000 grant has recently been expanded to include targeted populations in all county elementary, middle schools, and high schools through the award of the Maryland State Department of Education Fine Arts Initiative grants.
The Cecil County Plan was designed to integrate dance and theatre components to augment existing programs in music and visual arts. It mirrored two national research initiatives including the North Carolina A+ Schools project and the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education. The A+ Schools project focuses on integration of all the arts into the curriculum reflecting the multiple intelligence philosophy of Howard Gardner.
The CAPE program develops partnerships between community arts organizations and schools to improve the quality of instruction in the arts. Partner organizations involved ArtsReach constituents including Cecil County Arts Council, Cecil Community College, the Community Cultural Center, Cecil Dance Theatre, the Gifted & Talented Drama Program and the Young Peoples Theatre Program. Targeted populations in this project included second and third grade students at Cecilton, Conowingo, Elk Neck, Kenmore and Thomson Estates Elementary Schools and sixth grade students at Bohemia Manor, Cherry Hill and North East Middle Schools.
The purpose of CREATE was to promote local school curriculum alignment with Essential Learner Outcomes for the Fine Arts, expand current fine arts offerings, include partnerships with school and community arts organizations, reflect exemplary practices identified in arts education research, and demonstrate a willingness to disseminate developed curricular materials throughout the state and nation.
Successes of this project include:
Strategy I of this project focused in on the development of a K - 12 Dance Curriculum that could be used by dance specialists and general educators alike. This curriculum was developed through Cecil Dance Theatre with the help of classroom teachers and fine arts specialists. It was completed in the fall of 2000 and approved by Cecil County Public Schools for publication in February of 2001. It is currently being used to support CREATE activities in all of the participating schools.
The object of Strategy II of the CREATE project was the creation of integrated, multiple intelligence - based units for various subjects in second, third and sixth grades. Units were created in all of the participating schools that integrated theatre and dance into areas such as the second grade theme of Native American studies, the third grade theme of weather and the sixth grade theme of Ancient Rome.
Strategy III was centered on the enrichment portion of the grant. Students were exposed to performances of The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty through the grant's constituent, Cecil Dance Theatre. They saw performances of Really Rosie through the Young Peoples Theatre Program and The People vs. B.B. Wolf through the Gifted & Talented Drama program. Students also saw performances at the Wilmington Playhouse and enrichment artists were brought into the schools.
Strategy IV of the CREATE program was focused on the development of a K - 12 Theatre Curriculum. The Gifted & Talented Drama program along with classroom teachers and fine arts specialists developed this curriculum in the summer of 2000. It is currently being prepared for the approval process. The development of this curriculum resulted in a new high school theatre course to be piloted during the 2000-01 school year.
Cecil County Public Schools recognizes the significance of comprehensive programs in the arts. Over the past four years, many innovative programs have been developed to embrace all fine arts disciplines--music, art, theatre, and dance. Fine Arts Initiative and Goals 2000 grants have been awarded to assist this effort. These programs have directly affected all middle and elementary schools in the county.