A couple of posts ago I wrote about what I would do if I had the power to transform our public schools. I wrote that I would turn them inside out and move the arts from the periphery to the center, and then I would build on that strong arts core by infusing the teaching strategies of the arts disciplines into every other classroom in the building, math-English-science-history-Spanish-etc. This is called arts integration, and there are schools throughout the country creating deeper and more meaningful learning experiences for all their students by building strong arts integration programs.
Some of these schools are in the Anne Arundel County Public Schools system in Maryland. The Baltimore Sun published an article this past October describing how officials in this Maryland school system recognize arts integration is a teaching strategy that can engage more students, support multiple learning styles, encourage various entry points to learning, and illuminate the interconnectedness of the many disciplines taught in schools. Susan Riley is the Arts Integration Specialist for Anne Arundel County schools and is also the founder of Education Closet, a website where arts integration, innovation and education converge. In the Sun article Susan says,
“This program brings back student excitement for learning and engagement, while deepening their critical thinking skills. It is human nature to make natural connections between subjects in the world around us. Arts integration allows us to bring that into the classroom and provide opportunities for our students to bring their previous knowledge, new skills and unique learning abilities together under one umbrella of learning.”
Fortunately, it’s not hard to bring arts integration into the classroom. One simple way to get started is to think like an artist. Artists are keen observers of the world around them, and we can encourage our children to develop this behavior by teaching them to remember three prompts:
- I see
- I think
- I wonder
whenever they are faced with a new image, problem, or other learning experience. This is a powerful technique that teaches children to observe and think more deeply about their world and empowers them to activate their imaginations, a prerequisite to innovation. In one Education Closet post Susan describes a wonderfully simple worksheet teachers can use to visually inspire their students to see, think, and wonder. In another she writes more generally about Artful Thinking and how teachers can apply this technique to everyday classroom work. There are incredible resources all around the Web offering ideas for bringing arts integration into the classroom; here are a few websites The Arts Room recommends: