The arts have long been considered an important component of one’s evolution through his or her educational career and serve as an integral part in the development of human nature. The arts are what make us most human and can touch us to our very core by generating avenues of creativity, engagement and growth.
Statistical research, done by Americans for the Arts, indicates that students who participate in the arts are more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, perform community service, participate in math and science fairs, win writing awards and are more likely to win school attendance awards. Through research such as this, we can see the important role that the arts have in academics.
The way that we most commonly think of art being used in the academic setting is through classes such as band, orchestra or dance. If a school offers these types of courses during the school day, their approach to teaching would be considered “Arts as Curriculum.” This allows students to develop skills in a particular art form.
We all probably remember belting out our ABCs to help remember the alphabetical sequence or learning the “Nifty-Fifty” song to recall all the states. This approach is referred to as “Arts-Enhanced Curriculum.” Students are motivated to learn through an art form such as singing, but are not expected to learn about melody, song structure or develop correct vocal techniques.
The third way we can see arts in the classroom is through an approach called “Arts Integration.” Arts integration within the curriculum is designed to give all students — not just those who have expressed an interest or gift in the arts — an opportunity to express creativity, learn critical-thinking strategies and develop innovation skills. Arts-integrated lessons are created using equal portions of core subjects and an art form to learn concepts of both areas. For example, students may learn about the water cycle through movement, explore classic literature through drama, or they might study the Underground Railroad by the creation and performance of their own freedom songs.
When students are taught through arts integration, they are engaged in lessons that actively allow them to demonstrate what they are learning. Students become engaged learners and demonstrators as they work with each other to make decisions on how to present what they know through an authentic medium. Learning becomes dynamic and assists in teaching critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity skills — all of which are necessary for students being successful later in life. Classroom benefits also include increased student engagement and achievement.
In 2012, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center and Appleton Area School District were selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Through this partnership the center and AASD annually offer professional development in arts integration to support the work being done by local educators.
In whatever form art appears in a classroom, it is obvious that the arts hold the power to transform a passive learning experience into one of discovery. An arts-integrated environment provides students with experiences that challenge and transform the learner.