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Arts Integration in the Classroom Isn't Just Benefiting Students, But Teachers As Well

Poetry and science might seem like two things that don’t go together, but an innovative teaching method is merging the two and having great success. Teachers in schools across the country are finding that integrating the arts into their lesson plans is having a positive impact not only on students, but themselves as well.

Wendy Strauch-Nelson is an art education professor at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and the co-founder of ArtsCore, a program that helps teachers implement the arts into their lessons. Strauch-Nelson said it’s common at first for teachers to feel they need to be creatives to use arts in teaching, but that isn’t the case. It’s simply about finding small ways to take creative hobbies that kids love and adapt them to material typically taught through textbooks.

“It’s a way of teaching that really connects with children at a level where they’re interested and engaged. Most every kid loves singing and acting and drawing,” Strauch-Nelson said.

Having students write their own comic book about plant photosynthesis or develop a script based on explorer Marco Polo, certainly goes against the grain of traditional textbook teaching. By taking a more “artsy” approach to teaching subjects like math, history, or science though, teachers are finding it helps students to connect with the material in a new way.

When students are presented with material through arts integration, they are engaged in the subject through experiences that use the art form to reinforce the material. It’s a way of actively building upon and demonstrate their understanding of the curriculum. It can be especially helpful in connecting with students who might have learning disabilities or behavior issues.

Teachers in Mississippi’s Gulf Coast this summer are participating in a program put on by the Mississippi Arts Commission that helps them to integrate different ways of using the arts in their classrooms. The teachers are brushing up on everything from magic tricks to teach physics lessons to teaching math through painting. “I did a watercolour class and we used that to integrate with percents,” elementary teacher Kim Brumley told The St. Louis Dispatch. “We did an original painting for each student and then they calculated the percentage of each color on their artwork.”

Besides presenting material that is typically taught to students through traditional textbook and worksheet methods, arts integration can be invigorating for teachers who may feel burned out by the drudgery of usual teaching styles. By having students present something like the signing of the Declaration of Independence through dance or write a modernized script of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, it changes the dynamics of the entire classroom. Anytime teachers can find a way to engage kids in something new through a medium they already love “it makes teaching easier and they learn better,” said Strauch-Nelson.


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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