Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Durham CAPS - Creative Arts In Public and Private Schools... and more!

Longtime Stir Crazy Mom blogger and writer in her own right Melissa Rooney brings us some information about Durham CAPS, and why you should be a part of it!

What is Durham CAPS?

Over the years, I have had the privilege of many discussions with Nancy Cox, a Southwest Durham resident, former Durham School Board member, and lifelong advocate for our public schools, teachers, and students. Our friendship began in 2008, when Nancy contacted me about organizing a Forum for South Durham residents with newly elected county commissioners Brenda Howerton and Joe Bowser. I was pregnant and home with my 6- and 4-year-olds and was engaged in issues involving suburban development and the health of South Durham watersheds. “Keep a good record for your resume and work experience,” Nancy advised from her hindsight perspective. Upon learning of the science-based activities I conducted in my kids’ schools, Nancy encouraged me to apply to become an artist in the Creative Arts in the Public and Private Schools (CAPS) program via the Durham Arts Council. CAPS was nearly 40 years old, but I’d never heard of it. Five minutes into the discussion, I was hooked, line and sinker.

The CAPS program (https://durhamartscouncilcaps.com) provides creative and interactive artist’s workshops and residencies that teach core subjects (math, science, writing, social studies), character education and a variety of life skills through the arts. The idea is to provide unique, engaging, affordable and relevant arts-based educational experiences to traditional public, charter, private and home schools, early childhood centers, preschools and after-schools, senior and adult groups…any environment with the objective of stimulating creativity and shared learning. CAPS also provides professional development ARTS workshops for teachers and business teams.

Upon speaking with CAPS Manager Shana Adams, I was immediately impressed with CAPS’ mission of maintaining truly engaging, hands-on education in our public schools. My next thought, which I’m sure I spoke aloud, was, “What a great opportunity for homeschoolers and even birthday parties.”

Most of the one-time classes CAPS offers (https://durhamartscouncilcaps.com/caps-artists-and-programs/) cost around $150.00 and permit around 30 participants. That’s about the average cost of an elementary kid’s birthday party organized through a fun park, movie theater or bowling alley and probably costs less per participant. From Diali Cissokho’s equivalent of an African drum circle (Rockin Rhythms: An African Beat, $125.00/class/hr) to Jody Cassell’s Dancing Math or Dancing Science performances ($130/class/hour), that’s money worth spending on my children’s and their friends’ entertainment.

My next thought was that CAPS was a perfectly cost-effective and local source for company and community team-building events. And that’s what I love about the program. Shana and her Durham Arts Council team are sincere and open-minded in their mission to spread intelligent and relevant arts experiences to everyone, regardless of age or circumstance. Shana was enthusiastic about my Didgeridoo and the Science of Sound ($100) and Eddie The Electron workshops ($125) and guided me through the application
process, so that I became a CAPS artist in 2009. Since then, I have conducted both workshops at several Durham elementary and middle schools. I’m not inundated with requests, but the few workshops I do each year benefit me as much as the students I meet.

More importantly, I am now part of a fabulous program I would never have known about had I not applied. As Shana once emailed me, “The CAPS program has been a part of this community for over 44 years, yet there are people that still don’t know what we offer. We want everyone in Durham to know about this amazing program and how it helps students to learn in new ways, by making connections to curriculum utilizing the magic of the arts and creativity.”

A highlight in my life has been witnessing my children having so much fun they don’t even know they’re learning. Another is witnessing other kids, especially those who generally have trouble in school, doing the same thing. But the best thing is observing the immediate changes in these kids’ self-esteem and peer-to-peer relationships as a result of their shared interactive learning experience.

When asked to provide a statement for this article, Shana replied with her usual passion, ending with the following: “Several CAPS Artists have settled in Durham from different parts of the world, including- Sierra Leone, Ghana, Liberia, Brazil, Trinidad & Tobago, China, Australia, etc. CAPS also partners to present programs with the Nasher Museum of Art, Carolina Theatre, BUMP: The Triangle, African American Dance Ensemble, Mallarme Chamber Players, Duda/Paine Architects, and American Dance Festival (ADF). We want students to be exposed to the rich array of art happening right here in Durham. We want the arts to always be accessible.”

(Just two of the many programs, that run the gamut from science to dance)

That pretty much sums it up for me. CAPS is a professional, heart-felt, local program that we are lucky, on so many levels, to have here in Durham, and I plan to support it every chance I get. I hope you’ll join me.

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