What is Integrated Arts Education? Integrated arts education is a pedagogy in which the arts are deeply embedded within the core of interdisciplinary learning and affirms the indispensability of arts as a core curriculum subject and concurrently a catalyst to learn other subjects.
With integrated arts education arts play a major role in helping students address broad curriculum themes and achieve robust habits of mind including such characteristics as imagination, discipline, collaboration, inquiry, divergent problem solving, empathy, and making connections. The focus is on enriching students’ abilities to attain, analyze, discern, and invent knowledge. Integrated arts education acknowledges and fosters Multiple Intelligences. An Integrated arts education ranges from a single lesson to an entire curricula framework.
The emphasis is on both content and learning skills. Critical to integrated arts education is a commitment to learning objectives in the arts and therefore, the arts are assessed with integrity like other fields of knowledge and vital results. Criteria for assessing the arts should include elements and principles of art media, point of view and intent, aesthetic judgment, and critique and reflection.
Basic Characteristics of an Integrated Arts Education:
- Requires in depth study of dance, music, theater, and/or visual arts involving students in processes that are authentic to the arts (creating, performing, and responding);
- Involves teaching for deeper understanding of other subjects with the arts;
- Promotes students’ abilities to solve problems, analyze knowledge, generate insights, use their imaginations and curiosity, synthesize new relationships among ideas, and make meaningful connections across subjects;
- Is standards-based and requires forms of standards-based assessment that address the arts;
- Consciously applies methodology and language from complementary subjects, including the arts, to examine a central theme, issue, problem, topic or experience;
- Engages all students in active learning, providing a forum for them to create, perform and respond artistically in core subject areas;
- Involves community resources (such as performing arts centers, museums, galleries, and artists) in and out of school;
- Acknowledges and fosters multiple intelligences in students.
What are the steps in working toward Integrated Arts Education? Teaching with an integrated arts approach is satisfying but challenging. It requires new ways of thinking about content, student engagement, and often, collaborative planning with other teachers. Arts integration is more than simply inserting an arts activity into an existing unit. It involves rethinking how movement, visuals, theater, or music are vehicles for entering, studying, and showing understanding of learning in other academic disciplines. For example, in English/language arts, students might read and respond to published critiques, or write their own criticism of a work of art. The following conditions support teachers to create and implement strong integrated arts education programs:
- administrative support and involvement;
- common planning time and/or sufficient opportunities to collaborate with other teachers;
- ongoing professional development;
- flexible scheduling;
- appropriate resources;
- access to local, state, and national standards and curriculum;
- community support and involvement.
What are the criteria that help guide the creation and evaluation of arts integrated units?
- Is in-depth student-centered learning promoted?
- Are clear expectations for student artistic work articulated?
- Are meaningful connections made between or among the arts and other content areas?
- Is diversity of learners acknowledged and respected?
- Does the instruction and assessment maintain the integrity of the art form and the other integrated subjects?
- Is the appropriate artistic terminology used?
- Are the artistic processes of creating, performing, and responding incorporated?
- Is standards-based and authentic arts assessment embedded and ongoing?
- Is professional development for teachers embedded and ongoing?
Research in Support of Arts Learning: Champions of Change: The impact of the Arts on Learning (Fiske, 1999) highlights some of the nonacademic benefits of the arts that carefully controlled studies demonstrate:
- The arts reach students not ordinarily reached, with methods not normally used, which keeps tardy, truancy, and dropout rates down.
- Students connect to one another better and experience greater camaraderie, fewer fights, and less prejudice when the arts are central to their learning.
- Arts education requires an environment of discovery that can rekindle the love of learning in students who are tired of being filled up with facts.
- The arts provide challenges for students at all levels, from delayed to gifted. In the arts, all students can find their own level of performance.
- The arts connect learners to the world of real work in which theater, music, visual arts and dance appeal to a growing consumer public.
Critical Links, a research compendium, cites examples of research that indicated that the arts cultivate skills and foster desired outcomes in many areas such as literacy, mathematics, and science. According to James S. Catterall, Professor of Education, UCLA, and contributing researcher/author of Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Social and Academic Development, arts integration increases student motivation and social competence. Economically disadvantaged children show improved basic reading comprehension when the arts are integrated with their other lessons.
In The Science of the Arts, Principal Leadership Magazine (November 2001), Eric Jensen writes: “Because the value of the arts is both generally distributed across the range of human performance and because they are time–consuming, they are effective, not efficient. Students of the arts develop neural systems that often take months and years to fine tune, and the benefits students experience range from enhancement in fine motor skills to better emotional regulation…. This…is often considered sinful in a climate that treats student test scores as products and looks for cost-cutting measures at every corner.”
Dance and the Human Body – Dance, Arts, Science and Language Arts.
As an integral part of a six-week unit of the human body, a team of the third through fifth graders at Shelburne Community School studied dance. The students learned dance vocabulary and explored loco-motor and axial movements from a Flynn Center teaching artist. When doing the dance activities, the students often referred to anatomical pictures to see how these movements were possible. During the same period, they studied the different systems of the body: skeletal, muscular, digestive, circulatory, respiratory and nervous through a variety of activities. Culminating the unit was multi-leveled event, beginning first with students sharing their individual reports with their parents and ending with a performance on and around the school stage. Each of the four classes in the team created and performed an original dance around one or two of the body systems, complete with simple costumes they had made, and then gathered on the stage to recite a poem. For a write-up of the unit, contact Education Department, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, 153 Main Street, Burlington, VT 05401, firstname.lastname@example.org; 802-652-4548.
Picturing the Past – A series of three integrated units in which 3rd-5th grade students use art as the lens through which to learn and share the history of their community.
Inquiry for "Picturing the Past: A Schoolchild's History of Chittenden County 1760-1900" began with the Shelburne Museum's collection of American art and artifacts. Working with museum staff, students and teachers used maps, town histories and historic photographs to research the histories of their community. They learned the history of book illustration and printmaking then developed their own images in drawing and prints. Working in cooperative groups, students researched, wrote, then individually illustrated the history of each town in Chittenden County and created an original song/rap musical composition. Students published a book of their writing and art work with the help of school technology educators and parent volunteers.
In "Picturing the Past: Images Tell Time", students returned to the Shelburne Museum for gallery talks with the Museum's curator, where they learned to carefully examine paintings and other artworks for historical information. By analyzing the visual clues in paintings, old photographs and artifacts, they were able to create fresh images that reflected their knowledge of Vermont's historical past. Drawings and paintings in each of four genres with appropriate captions were shared in an exhibit at the Shelburne Museum and published as the second volume in the "Picturing the Past" series.
"Picturing the Past: Our Family Ties" is the culminating project of this unique educational/ community collaboration that reflects the Vermont Framework of Standards and Learning Opportunities. "Our Family Ties" was interpreted within the existing Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, and Mathematics curricula by teams of teachers. They included classroom teachers, the music teacher, art teacher, physical education teacher, the library media specialist and many guest artists. Using the Shelburne Museum's world famous quilt collection, students used quilts and quilt making as the springboard for study. Students learned to appreciate the artistic and mathematical skills involved in quilt making as well as the stories they tell. Students produced class quilts with a variety of themes, from Vermont wildflowers to stories generated from interviews with grandparents. This year long program included five week long residencies in which students created and shared music, songs, stories, or puppet theater performances. Student learning and achievement were shared at a school wide celebration as well as exhibits of the quilts at the Vermont Quilt Festival in Northfield and at the Shelburne Museum.
Authors: Jane Masenas, Ellie Morency and Kevin Sullivan from Founders School, Essex, Vt.
Integration the Norm at Marion Cross School in Norwich:
Key to arts integration in a strong commitment from faculty and administration and dedicated time reserved for planning and implementation by classroom teachers and arts educators. With a weekly repertory style performance time for the entire school, integration thrives as the arts are embedded into the culture of the school at this K-6 school on the town green. The school embraces the idea that when a curriculum unit is integrated with the various art forms, learning reaches a whole new level. Students internalize the information and are able to immerse themselves as the projects evolve. The arts are truly enhanced through the creativity of these projects and the strong attention given to the arts curriculum and specific skills and knowledge.
Here are just a few examples:
- For the Salem Witch Trials unit with grade 6, students wrote and performed an opera
- In the yearly study of Homer’s Odyssey fifth grade students integrate the arts in a different way each year. One year they created a movie that included theater, original compositions for the sound track and songs sung by the children, students created computer animations, scenery, period art work, Greek inspired ceramic pots, and costumes.
- For the fourth grade study of Vermont students created three one act plays about Vermont history and included traditional music, costumes, and dance.
- In a study of Japan, fourth graders wrote original haikus and then created songs to their poetry, accompanying them by using traditional Japanese instruments
- First graders wrote songs and short plays about the heart and skeleton while creating a giant heart and bones in art class.
Carolyn Keck, music educator, Marion Cross School
The Desk Project at Robinson Elementary School, Starksboro, VT:
A 5-6 classroom teacher and the art teacher collaborated on an integrated arts project. Students first looked at works of art ranging from Grandma Moses, Wassily Kandinsky to Jacob Lawrence. From these visual images students chose one artist to study, both the life of the artist and the style of painting. This inquiry included researching the internet, books, and primary sources. Then students wrote biographies of their individual artists. As a class they looked at prints by these artists using Visual Thinking Strategies and the elements and principles of design. They then painted images that illustrated their understanding of the artist's style, subject matter and storytelling qualities. Students transferred these images on to old, dilapidated desks in the style of the artist chosen.
Once the desks were painted, students interviewed each other about the process that they had just completed. The biographies and the interviews along with visuals of the creative process were compiled into a catalog which accompanied an art exhibit of the desks at a gallery in Bristol, Vermont. The Vermont standards addressed in this unit are writing dimensions and conventions, problem solving process, responding to text, historical connections and methodology, using elements and principles of 2-D and 3-D design, and critique and revision.
Authors: Frank Spina, 5-6 classroom teacher Vera Ryersbach, art teacher/consultant (Robinson Elementary School), Jonathan Silverman, Arts in Education Consultant (Saint Michael's College)
Bringing History to Life — Theater, Music, American, History, Language Arts:
At Burlington’s Edmunds Middle School, two seventh and eighth teams created two separate, but linked original plays, exploring how different people reacted to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. One team focused their research on Southern plantation life; the other on factory life in New England. Students were taken through the process of creating, directing and performing by exposing them to dramatic exercises allowing them to interpret and “put a face” on the information they collected about plantation and factory life in the 1850’s. Students imagined how different members of both of these regions might be impacted and face choices regarding the Fugitive Slave Act. Throughout the unit, students explored the literary elements of character, setting, plot, theme and conflict. Additionally, they worked with the school music teacher to learn songs of the period that were sung as part of the production. Afterwards, the students attended a professional production by Theatreworks USA at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts titled “Freedom Train” about the life of Harriet Tubman and met with the actors to compare notes At the end, one student remarked, “It was like learning about history and living it all at same time.” For a write-up of the unit, contact Education Department, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, 153 Main Street, Burlington, VT 05401, email@example.com; 802-652-4548.
Personal Story Quilts:
A Visual Art, Language Arts, and Family Consumer Science integrated unit addressing Vermont Framework of Standards in Arts, Language and Literature as well as Vital Results Of Communication, Reasoning and Problem Solving, and Personal Development. In this unit, eighth grade studentswere introduced to the history of quilts and quilt makers, from traditional early American quilts to contemporary examples including the story quilts of Faith Ringgold and the Aids Memorial Names Quilt. Our study included a discussion of slides and videos, reading of selected poetry and prose, talking with a representative from Vermont Cares (an Aids support group), a presentation by a local quilter and a field trip to view a portion of the Aids Memorial Quilt at St. Michael's College. Through these activities, students learned to examine various purposes of quilt makers and look for historical meaning or personal stories within the quilts as well as understand their formal and aesthetic qualities. They developed an appreciation for the metaphorical symbolism of piecing together a quilt. The language arts teacher led students in a visualization activity, helping them to identify a moment of personal significance and then worked with them to develop that idea into a self expressive written composition. In art class, they created a visual image evoked by their writing then painted it on a canvas square. In Family and Consumer Science students used the dominant colors and mood of their painting as a guide to select fabrics with which to frame their canvas. Personal stories were hand written in ink on strips of plain muslin which were then pieced into the colorful borders surrounding the paintings. Finished story quilts were hung with pride in displays at school and at the public library.
Authors: Mary Viglotti, Jane Vossler and Meg Miller from Essex Middle School, Essex, Vt.
Fibonacci Sequence Guides Integrated Units at North Country Union High School
Students and teachers in the math, dance, art, and music departments are researching and applying the Fibonacci sequence to collaborative projects. Referred to as "Phi," the "Golden Mean" and "Golden Number,”, the Fibonacci sequence refers to the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89 and continuing with the next number being the sum of the two previous numbers. The sequence is found in nature, the arts and architecture.
In the music department compositions were written by students in the MIDI Composition/Theory Class by applying the sequence to various musical elements: form, melodic material, rhythmic ideas, meter, and harmony. The music students utilized professional composers to listen to their work-in-progress and respond with suggestions on the Vermont MIDI Project password protected online mentoring website. When complete, the short pieces were choreographed by dance students and preformed at the spring dance concert with scenery, costumes, and displays from the visual arts students.
Theme Exploration: A Senior Seminar—Visual Arts and Literature:
In a high school setting, an integrative senior seminar was proposed and created by the visual arts and language arts teachers: “Students will explore the theme of conflict/violence in family relationships of today through sculpture, video, and literature.” To introduce the seminar, the teachers arranged a field trip to view the work of a contemporary artist who uses soft sculpture, video, and recordings to comment on the theme of conflict/violence as it appears in family relationships. This theme was extended through the study of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the analysis of various contemporary settings of the play. Students produced a videotape with storyboard and dialogue as well as various analyses of the use of images, sounds, and texts in literal and symbolic forms. Students compared the process of production and interpretation (through brainstorming, planning, design, rough draft, sequencing, revision, evaluation, and critique) in all three areas of expression. Students reflected on the ways that meanings are conveyed in sculptural, media, and literary arts and the expressive possibilities inherent in each, and the relationships and connections found in all three.
Much of this monograph is inspired by Authentic Connections: Interdisciplinary Work in the Arts developed by a Consortium of National Arts Education Associations (American Alliance for Theatre and Education—AATE, Music Educators National Conference—MENC, National Art Education Association—NAEA, National Dance Education Organization—NDEO), 2002.
Contributions to this monograph were made by members of the Vermont Arts Council’s Education Advisory Committee including: Wendy Cohen, Assessment Consultant, Geof Hewitt, VT DOE Writing/Secondary English Consultant, Dorinne Dorfman, Director Peoples Academy Career Academy for the Arts, Meg Miller, Visual Arts Educator Essex Middle School, Tony Pietricola, Music Educator Charlotte Central School, Sandi MacLeod, Director VT MIDI Project, Joan Robinson, Education Director Flynn Center, Cheri Skurdall, Dance Educator North Country Union High School, Harriet Worrell, Director of Theater Woodstock Union High School, and Anne Taylor, Director VT Alliance for Arts Education