What is Arts Integration?

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I teach at an arts integrated school.  In fact, it is the only arts-integrated public school in the state of Hawaii.  We still teach required curriculum - Hawaii is a one-district state with mandated curriculum for math and ELA.  But at our school, we use the curriculum as the content to teach the standards and use arts integration as strategies for HOW we teach that content.  One main focus is on professional development.  We need to learn from teaching artists how to teach through the arts.  We need to be inspired.  Our professional development also brings the artists into our classrooms so we can see how they work with students.  And sometimes it leads to mentoring.  We all know that sitting in a one-hour professional development does not make the biggest impact on our students.  It's revisiting the content, talking about it with peers, seeing it in action, and then being coached on it after we've given it a try.  That's the model my school employs.  At each meeting, we are expected to get up out of our seats and do the work we ask our students to do everyday.  We dance, we sing, we act, we draw, we write.  If I can't get out of my comfort zone with my colleagues, how can I ask my students to do it with their peers? It's amazing how empowering it is.

Many of the teaching artists who visit my school are from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC.  Here is how the Kennedy Center defines Arts Integration:
The part that really sticks out to me is that in order for integration to occur, you have to have evolving objectives in both the subject area and art form.  Reading about the Statue of Liberty and then painting her is not integration.  It's a great art enhancement.  For it to be integration, you would need to have visual arts standards that you are focusing on, as well, not just social studies.  In first grade, one of our visual arts standards is about the elements of art: line, shape, color, texture, and form.  I could focus on her color (mint green) and have students mix primary colors to create her green patina.  We could then do a science experiment with pennies to find how copper oxidizes.  The final project might very well be a drawing or painting of the statue, but after learning about color with an art perspective and her color from a science perspective, students would have a much deeper understanding and more connection to the content.

When creating a work of art (dance, drama, visual arts, poetry, etc), students naturally go through a creative process.  This process can be entered from any stage and doesn't follow the same path each time.  We all have heard it, art is messy.  But that's the beauty of it.  By not following the same exact process, we can surprise ourselves.  And that element of surprise is what is intriguing about art.

ARTSEDGE is a wonderful collection of lessons that you can try for integration purposes.  I find that ELA and social studies lend themselves to integration very easily.  Those standards are a great place to start.

Go try a lesson and let me know how it goes!