"When well planned and implemented, arts integration is one of the most effective ways for a wide range of students with a wide range of interests, aptitudes, styles, and experiences to form a community of active learners taking responsibility for and ownership of their own learning."
Renaissance in the Classroom, pg. xxvi
What is arts integration?
Arts integration is instruction that integrates content and skills from the arts—dance, music, theater, and the visual arts—with other core subjects. Arts integration occurs when there is a seamless blending of the content and skills of an art form with those of a co-curricular subject.
Why do it?
- Arts integration is highly effective in engaging and motivating students. It supports the academic achievement and improved social behavior of students while enhancing school climate and parental involvement.
- A rich array of arts skills and intellectual processes provide multiple entry points for students to approach content in other subject areas, while the arts instruction is likewise deepened through integration of content from the other subject areas. The arts provide students multiple modes for demonstrating learning and competency.
- It enlivens the teaching and learning experience for entire school communities. At its best, arts integration is transformative for students, teachers, and communities. The imaginations and creative capacities of teachers and students are nurtured and their aspirations afforded many avenues for realization and recognition.
How do you do it?
- Arts integration is a fundamental culture shift. It takes time to build awareness, understanding, and commitment among members of the school community.
- Ongoing professional development is essential to give classroom teachers facility in arts disciplines, enable them to analyze curricula to find the natural connections between arts curricula and the curricula of other subject areas, and create lessons and units of instruction.
- Collaboration is essential between and among classroom teachers and arts specialists. Common planning time is critical.
- Arts specialists are key resources, collaborators, and leaders in developing arts integration programs. They are extremely valuable in guiding the planning of professional development and supporting collaboration among teachers and with partners such as cultural institutions and teaching artists.
What are budget and structural priorities for becoming an arts integration schools?
- Staffing that includes as many arts disciplines as possible and an arts integration specialist or lead teacher is a priority. Some schools use part-time or shared positions to extend their reach.
- Professional development—schools that are highly successful in arts integration provide ongoing training experiences for their teachers, whose capacity in arts integration will deepen over time.
- Schedules that include common planning time allowing classroom teachers to collaborate with arts specialists and others are vital. Collaboration with arts organizations and teaching artists will provide rich arts integration experiences for students and professional development for teachers.
What is a realistic timeline?
It may take three years to fully realize potential as an arts integration school. Planning to achieve this goal is essential. While schools tailor their own pathways to successful arts integration programs, there are some useful steps many follow. What follows is not intended to be prescriptive but rather suggestive of a successful process.
- Build awareness and commitment within the school community, including among parents.
- Look at arts integration models in schools in Baltimore and across Maryland.
- Begin to build staff in the arts.
- Engage the school community in planning.
- Begin to identify and engage partners from the cultural community.
- Form a team to participate in arts integration professional development and share their experiences with colleagues.
- Make budgetary decisions that reflect a commitment to arts integration.
- Continue to build staff in the arts.
- Provide professional development for more teachers in arts integration. Those who received introductory training progress to more advanced work.
- Address leadership for arts integration through arts staff, trained classroom teachers, and an arts integration specialist.
- Identify arts integration mentor teachers on staff who could assist in the training of new personnel.
- Network with other arts integration schools in the city and state.
- Share successful arts integration units with the school community.
- Display curriculum maps. Curriculum mapping is the process of delineating natural connections among curricula for various subject areas, identifying the outcomes being met through an arts integrated lesson or unit.
- Seek cultural experiences for students that are linked to arts integration through collaboration with arts organizations and teaching artists.
Continue with the above steps and attain specific goals such as:
- Provide staffing in all four arts disciplines even if utilizing part-time staffing.
- Ensure that all teachers have received professional development in arts integration, with some having extensive training.
- Share your work with your community and celebrate the imagination of your students and teachers!
Arts Every Day is an organization dedicated to working in partnership with Baltimore City schools to inspire students and enhance learning by facilitating excellence in arts education and arts integration.