Why integrate the arts, you ask?
There’s a lot of talk in education about creating a more optimal learning environment for students. Yet, the arts are systematically cut from the curriculum of conventional schools.
And the extreme emphasis on STEM topics, high test scores, and student achievement measurements are only making for a more homogenous learning (and teaching) experience.
The Challenges for Educators
It’s crazy, really.
Evidence shows that the arts are essential to fostering creativity, innovation, and flexibility in students. These are all essential skills for their success in the future. They are also critical for a more well-rounded approach to teaching.
But the current accountability structure gives educators little room to explore the power of arts integration. As a result, they watch students who are labeled as “difficult” repeatedly struggle to grasp assignments. Moreover, they recognize that fellow colleagues are saddled with the same stressors and frustrations they’re experiencing.
It’s deflating for every person involved – all in the name of good test scores.
Why Integrate the Arts
It’s clear that traditional approaches don’t work for a lot of students. And it’s been clear for a long time.
That’s why some schools are starting to look beyond these fruitless approaches and trying Arts Integration and STEAM because of their proven track record.
Here are three solid reasons why integrating the arts is so effective.
1. Empowers Both Students and Teachers
When traditional subjects are taught through the arts (and vice versa), students become more actively engaged and interested. They are inspired to own the learning and feel inclined toward success.
Meanwhile, educators employing this form of creative hands-on learning find more success in reaching students and feel more fulfilled with their teaching and professional growth.
2. Builds Critical Thinking Skills
One of the biggest arguments for arts education has always been its ability to engage students in critical thinking. In constructing personal meaning through their lessons, they become more adept at problem-solving and are able to innovate new solutions.
For the aforementioned “difficult” students, they gain newfound confidence in grasping the material in this way and are eager to continue.
3. Provides Equitable Learning Environment
Sure, there are students that thrive in a STEM environment. But for those who don’t, offering an arts-integrated approach levels the playing field. Each student’s unique access points are considered and there is respect for the many avenues of differentiation.
Teaching Through Art
An arts-integrated educator works diligently to make the arts an avenue through which their students can apply and connect content they’ve previously learned. One does not serve the other. In fact, both the arts and the content become interconnected.
The teacher recognizes that when the line between content and the arts becomes blurred, this is success.
Here is what a week at an arts-integrated middle/high school might look like:
The arts-integrated educator might choose a famous artwork, be it an example of architecture, visual art, performance, music, writing, etc.
On this first day of the week, s/he will provide background information about the artist/architect/writer and how he or she made a difference in a historical context. This is also an opportunity for students to explore character traits to which they might personally relate.
Tuesday’s focus could be on one or more of the technical aspects of the artwork. The teacher may choose a specific skill, technique, or element s/he hopes to demonstrate to the students. Students are then encouraged to experiment with the technique(s) themselves.
On Wednesday, geography might be the focus as students use tech to explore the location where the artwork was created. Students learn how the location may have affected the work, as well as how the location is different now than it was a the time of its creation.
This could also be an opportunity for students to explore writing and communication by connecting with other students in those geographical locations. They can share what they’re learning and ask questions of the students in these areas. This can be easily achieved with educational Skype.
Thursday would be the perfect day for students to express themselves while interacting with the artwork. For instance, they create a soundscape or act out a scene from the piece. Or perhaps they role-play or do an interpretive dance. They may even use a specific strategy such as Step Into the Painting for a deeper exploration of the work.
Finally, Friday is the day it all comes together. On this last day of the week, students are encouraged to stop, reflect, and consider the knowledge they attained throughout the week.
There are many activities that can facilitate this.
Students may choose to record a video that shows everything they learned. Or they might draw a narrative picture with an artist’s statement that explains different aspects of the drawing they’ve created and how it relates technically to what they’ve learned. It might just be a quick writing exercise where students jot down everything they remember in just ten minutes.
For something more interactive, the educator may have the students sit in groups of 4 – 6. Each student has a piece of paper and has to write a fact they remember from the week’s exploration. The paper is passed clockwise and each student has to add a new fact and CAN’T write a fact he or she has already written. This goes on until the group’s well has run dry.
There are many more activities and the possibilities are nearly endless! This is the beauty of arts-integrated education.
Thinking Your Child Would Thrive With an Arts-Integration Education?
If your creative child is struggling with conventional education, the answer to the question of why integrate the arts will become apparent when you see your child really shine.
So contact us today to take a tour of our school. And prepare for possibility.