Arts and the Core Curriculum

Your Ideal School: Conceptualize It!

Yesterday’s posting (link above) began my discussion on what I feel needs to be done to help our students and our struggling school structure. Not everything is broken, and there are many amazing teachers, school admin and school communities. On the flip side,  there are a lot of things that need shoring up, some complete reforms and overhauls, and more investment in monies and support around the country, on all levels.  ALL levels.

There are a variety of reasons that people don’t think arts have any importance in schools. Many do not see it as something to assess (especially drama, which does not always produce a tactile resource for displays, outside of photos or video). There is a gross misconception that the arts have little to no crossover applications to core curricula. The goal of arts in schools is not wasting time, or, as one “teacher” once said to me: “What are you going on about?(Theater)..You are nothing but a prep period to us!”.  That individual’s statement is how I feel many see the arts: it’s wasting time, nothing of any real value.

Of course, I disagree. I never look at what I teach about working only to make the next Broadway or Movie STAR. In all honesty, that has to come totally from the kid. They have to want it, need it, breath it, live it. What I DO see in the importance of teaching the arts reaches into not only the core curriculum but also many life lessons.

Literacy, a major focus in schools, is deeply inherent in Drama, as well as studies in the other art disciplines. Math gets support in Dance  and Music (counting beats; ability to modify and work within a structure) and Fine Arts (measures, construction, dimensions, perspective). History is approached in all the arts, not only of the art form but also of how it fits into the Socio/Economic/Political structure of  the time period. I’ve only listed a few things that the arts already incorporate into the school community. I’m hoping more Arts people will chime in and add more in the comments.

Beyond that, the arts help in these life skills:   presentation ability; research; critical thinking;  problem solving; creative thought and creative voice expression; ensemble/team building; communication  (listening and speaking);  writing/notation; observation skills; focusing and following directions; inquiry; increasing vocabulary; making connections with studies and community; self confidence; and  more.  Are these skills things you can use in your life, work as well as personal? Of course. Can you find these things in the main school structure? Yes, but in the arts, these things are an extremely important component that is done daily, not when it fits into the curriculum map to teach it.

The Brian Lehrer Show August 29, 2007

The above link is to a half hour audio portion of a radio show I happened to catch as it aired. I think it’s important to the subject above. He is speaking to Sharon Dunn, who at that time was the Executive Director of the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Arts and Special Projects, as well to those who called in. If you have a half hour, I do suggest you listen.

Beyond that, if you want to read some more on the subject:

Arts Integrated Curriculum

Learning Through the Arts

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills


I will be posting more links in the week ahead, and I WILL look for opposing viewpoints. You do need to make up your own mind on subjects like these, and it’s best if you have a balanced opinion. If I did not believe that I would not make the statement.

What are YOUR thoughts on Arts working with the Core Subjects? What other learning points do you feel the Arts have to offer? Do you feel differently? Why?

This is not for an argument or name calling, but to create dialogue and thought. Please be respectful to any and all comments.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Alpana Jaiswal
    May 20, 2011 @ 17:47:56

    Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork. Tom Horne says..”When you think about the purposes of education, there are three,” Horne says. “We’re preparing kids for jobs. We’re preparing them to be citizens. And we’re teaching them to be human beings who can enjoy the deeper forms of beauty. The third is as important as the other two.”


    • bornstoryteller
      May 20, 2011 @ 19:30:22

      Great quote, Alapana. Yes, it shouldn’t be about the test and moving them along. Let’s see what the actual learning is, and when out of school, who will they be? clueless or informed.


  2. Debra Elramey
    May 20, 2011 @ 19:18:12

    Stuart, I write extensively on this subject, so if you’re interested in another resource person, my email is Or a Facebook message is fine. I run a music and performance art school and have firsthand evidence that what you say here is right on target.

    Many companies recruit workers with a variety of 21st century skills that are not reflected in most traditional American schools. There are wide gaps between the skills that businesses value and the skills that most youth actually have. As much as youth need to learn academic content, they also need to know how to keep learning and how to make effective and innovative use of what they know throughout their lives.


  3. AmyBeth Inverness
    May 21, 2011 @ 00:15:10

    When I was a kid, I thought that I had to become the star in order to say I was a success. I also thought of my artistic endeavors as something that made me “well rounded”. It wasn’t till I was an adult that I fully appreciated how my experiences in music, dance, art and drama integrated themselves into all my “core” classes, affecting the way I think and learn.

    My own daughter has special needs. But she sings in the choir at church, and does Kung Fu. Those are the only two times in life where she is just “one of the kids.” It is not that they are “nice” to her in those circumstances… it is that she simply blends in, being able to fully participate without her personal challenges getting in the way.


  4. bornstoryteller
    May 21, 2011 @ 00:19:05

    Success and WINNING are concepts that are often at odds with personal goals for kids. I would love for a school to cheer, go as NUTS over the students who compete in something but don’t come in first. Parties, balloons, etc.. just make them feel good about even trying their best.
    Glad you saw what the arts added to your whole being.

    Thank you for the interview.


    • AmyBeth Inverness
      May 21, 2011 @ 00:29:09

      I’m all for cheering and encouraging! I love it when my daughter runs track… she needs a little extra guidance for knowing what to do, but they cheer her all the way, even when she’s way behind!

      What I don’t like is false rewards… after a certain age. In Highland Dance, we usually give the 6& under dancers a “participation award” in addition to anything they might win at the competition. But what I don’t like is seeing competitions where every child of every age gets the same huge trophy, regardless of how they did. Kids know when we’re genuinely proud, and it hurts if we commend too easily.


      • bornstoryteller
        May 21, 2011 @ 00:32:26

        I’m not for the “false” you mentioned, cheering all the way, start to finish. Where the expectation is that they get up and DO IT. I hate competitions, esp in Drama

  5. Tameka Mullins
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 08:04:06

    There have been numerous reports that cite how incorporating the arts and core subjects can help kids learn in a deeper way. Music and painting are key in strengthening the mind when it comes to science and math. When I was in high school I thought math was the bane of my existence! But my mother noticed that I had a love for music and bought me a piano. Right after practicing I would immediately want to do my math homework! I didn’t realize it at the time, but learning the notes and settling myself down to concentrate really help me improve my ability to learn math!


  6. mary gagliaredi
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 16:51:36

    I am a drama teacher at an Integrated Arts Elementary School. Our school is blessed that every child in the school recieves Art, Music, Dance, Drama and PE once a week. The classroom teachers are expected to use the arts in their everyday curriculum lessons and the specialist teachers are expected to focus on curriculum standards in our arts classes.

    Drama does not have tangible products like visual arts do, an it is hard to display student work, but we try via pictures and video. We focus on life skills as you referred to. I know it is impacting the students lives in so many ways. I have so many stories.

    We do things like act out the stages of matter, the water cycle or planets. We use our bodies to make letters of the younger grades. We use dance to write poetry and to do math. there are so many choices.

    We rae blessed indeed.


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