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Empowering Teachers and Students with Arts Integration

  
  
  

Arts IntegrationIt’s no secret, school budgets are stretched thin these days. Administrators do what they can to fill holes in the operating budget, but inevitably, something is going to experience the old chopping block. It’s a tragedy, but generally speaking, there are two programs that experience it first: art and music.

All is not lost though thanks to something the folks at Harvard are calling Artful Thinking or arts integration. The idea behind Artful Thinking is that art doesn't have to be something that takes place outside the classroom or specifically in an art class. Arts Integration can happen every day, in every classroom, regardless of grade or subject matter. Results of this kind of school-wide curriculum overhaul have been absolutely stunning. Just ask the teachers and students at Wilie H. Bates Middle School.

Arts Integration Empowers Teachers and Students to Make a Positive Shift
Years ago, when new principal Diane Bragdon came to work at Bates Middle School, 1/3 of the teachers had resigned. Student test scores were dismal and suspension rates were abominable. She did what so many of us educators dream of doing—she started a revolution and overhauled the entire school curriculum.

And it worked.

Within three short years, suspension rates were down by 23%, and the school's reading and math scores were higher than state averages.

Making Concepts Musical
So what is it about arts integration that works? Part of the answer to that is as simple as A,B,C. How did you learn the ABCs? If you were born and raised in the U.S., you probably learned them by singing a song set to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." By setting academic information to music, your brain worked with your mouth and your musical sense to memorize the letters more easily. There was melody, there was rhythm, and the message sank right in. That is arts integration at its simplest. Your parents were proud and made you sing your ABCs for friends and relatives. You got excited because your learning process was honored. Learning was fun!

A Change of Perspective
Now take the arts integration perspective and apply it to math. How about learning your fractions by studying the idea of perspective and how it applies to drawing and painting. Work backwards and study a piece of art, using what you've learned about perspective, to figure out approximately how far away the mountain in the horizon is from the viewer.

Apply it to science. Students create a digital photo collage of leaves, rather than gathering their leaves in a dried collection. Or they choreograph a dance to represent the various planets in the solar system and how they revolve around the sun.

Arts integration in Language Arts may take Journal Time and transform it into Art Analysis time as students use works of art to stimulate narrative, creative, or biographical journal entries.

At the end of each day, students will have physically, visually, aurally, and emotionally connected with every subject. Is it a wonder that test scores improve and that classroom discipline (mostly) takes care of itself? That's the result of student engagement. Who has time to get in trouble when they are in the middle of learning a new solar-system-inspired dance routine?

Arts integration helps to even the social playing field

An added bonus to Artful Thinking in classrooms: it helps to level the social playing field. Let's face it, not all of us are artists. But when we all get to bumble through the world of singing, dancing, painting, and creating together, we get to laugh together, play together, and be silly together, which helps to lower our defensive barriers. Cooperative learning is fundamental to arts integration.

Do you use arts integration in your classroom without knowing it? How could you tweak a few existing lesson to incorporate artful thinking? Tell us how arts integration has made a difference in your classroom.

You might be interested in becoming an educational technologist; maybe you want to become a principal and are considering a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership. Perhaps you are interested in professional development and would like to earn a Master’s in the Art of Teaching. Whatever the case may be, Marygrove College has several online masters’ programs tailored to fit your needs—and your schedule!

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