With our powers combined, we become “The Best Education Model for Children” (yes, this is a Captain Planet reference)
But in all seriousness, sometimes classroom teachers and specials teachers really feel pitted up against one another. With the whole “Oh it must be nice to have ___” or “They have no idea that I’m dealing with ____” but the reality is we are all on the same team! We want to provide our students with the best possible education, right?
Well, imagine what would happen if we worked together to teach grade level standards but THROUGH the arts? Yes my friends- such a thing exists and it’s called arts integration. Arts integration is the practice of incorporating various forms of art, such as music, visual arts, drama, and dance, into the regular academic curriculum.
According to the Kennedy Center, arts integration brings focus to the whole child and embraces the notion that all students are different. Arts integration engages students and offers a variety of ways to construct and demonstrate understanding.
There is so much incredible research showing the positive effects of arts integration on children. Learning THROUGH the arts helps boost cognitive skills, attention, and enhance memory leading to better results in other subjects. Because the arts engage multiple senses (like sight sound and touch), this approach can help students better understand and remember the material being taught and further help use critcal thinking to analyze the information.
In addition to being encouraged to think creatively, students are able to express their emotions in a nonverbal way which can promote emotional intelligence and self awareness.
And let’s just be honest here- Students find arts-based activities more engaging and enjoyable. This alone can lead to increased motivation to learn. When students are actively involved in creating art, they often become more attentive, motivated and focused.
Now you might be reading all this and think: “Well yeah Kaitlyn this all sounds nice and all but WHO has the TIME to meet and plan with an entirely different team to take the first step in this?” Listen- I hear you. There is no where near enough time in the school day for teachers to get everything done that they need to do- so that’s where it really helps to have admin who believe in the benefits of arts integration so that they can schedule out specific time for teachers to plan.
I had to privilege of working at an arts integrated school in Charleston for several years, and seeing the pure magic flowing out of every classroom in that school will stay with me for a lifetime. What my principal did was allotted a chunk of time during staff meetings (not every one, but usually 1 every 3) where one member of the specials team would each meet with a grade level during that time. This is when the specials team learned about what was coming up in the curriculum and how they could use their area of expertise to provide ideas, resources and skills to the classroom teachers to best support them. We (the specials team) also incorporated certain elements of the curriculum into ours so that students would be supported in these subjects in multiple areas.
I know this blog may come off idealistic, but I’m just an art teacher, and a mom, who know knows that not all children learn the same, and we as educators sometimes need to rethink and rework things in our curriculum that just are not effective and meeting the needs of our kids.
If you are still struggling with the thought of "but how do I even get started?" Check out the amazing website for the Kennedy Center, where they already have tons of arts integrated lessons ready to go! You can find them here.
I hope that this blog sparks some interest in arts integration for you and that you will consider reaching out to your classroom teachers, or specials teachers to learn more about how you can work together to best support your students!
Rooting for you!!