Art is a valuable tool for students to learn how to express themselves, work through a process, work cooperatively, and gain respect and understanding for others. How can we teach the arts in all subject areas so that students benefit from the learning opportunities that art affords them? For more ways art instruction benefits students, read “Ten reasons why teaching the arts is critical in a 21st century world” by Elliott Seif.
Below are examples of the arts blended with other curriculum areas, helping students to draw out a deeper understanding and appreciation for both familiar and unfamiliar concepts.
See art as a tool to make meaning of our relationship with the natural world in Art Through Time, program 10, “The Natural World.”
Seventh graders combine science, dance, and language arts as they compare the anatomy of a frog and a human and then debate whether a frog can join a ballet company. Connecting With the Arts Library, program 11, “Can Frogs Dance?” has the video and student materials.
Mathematicians understand symmetry differently than the rest of us, as a fundamental aspect of group theory. Learn more in Mathematics Illuminated, unit 6, “The Beauty of Symmetry,” which includes a symmetry interactive. Students can manipulate a wallpaper design to practice common geometric motions such as rotation and reflection.
Students explore Greek myths using puppets in Connecting With the Arts Library, program 2, “Breathing Life into Myths.”
Artifacts & Fiction, session 1, “Visual Arts,” shows how visual art, paired with literature, can be used to enhance students’ understanding of the predominant culture and historical setting of a work of literature.
Latin students learn the difference between translating and interpreting the language using music and literary works of Mozart, Vergil, and Cicero. See Teaching Foreign Languages K-12, program 24, “Music and Manuscripts.”
In Teaching Foreign Languages, program 29, “Interpreting Literature,” students discuss “Dos caras” (Two faces) by New Mexico author Sabine Ulibarri. They act out scenes and make comparisons to a painting by a local artist.
In program 27, “Interpreting Picasso’s Guernica,” students write and deliver radio newscasts interpreting the scene in the famous painting.
Fifth graders in The Arts in Every Classroom, program 6, “Teaching Visual Art,” view portraits, looking beyond the face for historical cues. They continue the lesson by creating new portraits that reveal clues to the lives of their subjects through clothing, expressions, and background.
Use the Focus In tool with middle and high school students to analyze photographs curated by topics such as “Protest and Politics” and “Economies and Empires” in Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs Across the Curriculum. Also, hear a photo editor at National Geographic and a professional photographer discuss their work in the video “Story.”
Music and Art
Start a music program at your school based on the El Sistema program or borrow ideas from the programs presented in our new series The Power of Music: P-5 Teaching Inspired by El Sistema. The El Sistema philosophy presents music making as a collaborative process—one that teaches individual self-confidence, creates caring citizens, and builds cohesive communities. The program includes ideas for teachers of all subjects, not just music.
Watch art, dance, and theater teachers use scaffolding as they help students gain knowledge and fundamental skills while fostering creativity and active self-directed learning in The Art of Teaching the Arts, workshop 2, “Developing Students as Artists.”
To learn more about why arts education is important and how to connect the arts with big ideas in other subject areas, view Connecting With the Arts, program 2, “Why Integrate the Arts?” and program 5, “What Are Connecting Concepts?”
These ideas just scratch the surface of all they ways arts instruction can be incorporated in other curriculum areas. Please feel free to share more ideas in the comments.