“The arts are an essential element of education, just like reading, writing, and arithmetic…music, dance, painting, and theater are all keys that unlock profound human understanding and accomplishment.”– –William Bennett, Former US Secretary of Education
As much as we want there to be dedicated instructors of all the arts disciplines in schools, we have to face the current financial reality and the mindset of the policy makers: it’s going to take a lot to get new programs in the arts going in schools. This has happened before, and it will happen again. The arts are among the first things to get cut when things get tough, and when education is attacked.
Test scores become the only means of assessment that mean anything to the policy makers. Scores are fairly tangible. They can be put into statistics. They are understood by business minds. They present pretty graphs and charts and can be easily defined. The policy makers don’t have to work hard to understand anything other than numbers and line charts. They don’t see the value in other means of assessment.
They do need their eyes opened to other ways so the children in our schools today are not harmed further.
Until we get back to the practice of supporting the individualistic arts in our public schools (and bless the school leaders who have retained the treasures they do have in place and have kept them), Arts Integration should be on the minds of all parents and educators.
Most teachers already do art integration without acknowledging it or realizing it’s part of their plans. How many dioramas, Readers Theater, play readings, recorder lessons, science fairs, etc. has your student gone through. Presentations are often accompanied with fine art, music accompaniment, dramatizations and more. It’s more prevalent in Elementary school. Role playing in discussions happens in the later grades as well, as does art. Dance is subjective, but a good physical education program incorporates body movements (synchronized anything). Dance incorporates Math and easily explores literacy as another means of interpretation.
The core subjects are enhanced and reach more students when introduced in interesting ways. When I was leading the American Voices project for the NYC Department of Education (integrating Theater Arts into 8th & 11th Grade SS curriculum), I personally heard students say that this was the first time they actually enjoyed learning Social Studies. I saw students in many schools interact and show great interest in a subject that they normally were not engaged in. That last from the teachers who participated in the program.
They were introduced to the time period they were studying, the socio/economic/political structure of those eras, through great American plays of the time or that spoke for that time. They had art, music, dance, theater, history, literacy, math and science tied into the units.
The best part: they learned and were interested.
“We need people who think with the creative side of their brains—people who have played in a band, who have painted…it enhances symbiotic thinking capabilities, not always thinking in the same paradigm, learning how to kick-start a new idea, or how to get a job done better, less expensively.”–Annette Byrd, GlaxoSmithKline
There are a number of sites that have lesson plans for educators already set up. The best, in my opinion, is ArtsEdge from the Kennedy Center. When I was just starting out and planning my curriculum map for the year, ArtsEdge proved to be among the best. It gave me units to work with, lesson plans that were easily modified for my individual classes, source material, printable diagrams, and more ideas for other projects. I used a number of them, and a number jump started me into creating my own curriculum ideas.