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Arts Integration Unpacked


Arts integration is a teaching strategy that connects the arts with other disciplines to deepen learning in both subjects. "Students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject and meets evolving objectives" (The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts). Arts integration is not a substitute or replacement for regular arts instruction. This strategy should mutually strengthen both non-arts and arts curricula, inspiring students' curiosity and love for learning.


A powerful characteristic of arts integration is that it makes learning accessible to students with differing learning styles and abilities. Arts integration creates alternative ways for students to receive and deliver information by creating, performing, responding, and connecting. Students are active participants in their learning, participating in authentic activities to express their thinking.


Planning an Arts-Integrated Unit


Select a big idea or thematic unit within your current curriculum. Design your integrated unit by making a connection from your theme to an arts concept. Remember that an arts integrated lesson should meet dual objectives. Often, the art objective is diluted to meet objectives in other disciplines. Design your unit to teach students about an artist, artistic process, or art concept that will support your big idea.


Look for connections when planning your arts-integrated unit. Explore how art relates to other disciplines. Once you start, it’s likely you’ll start seeing connections between disciplines everywhere you look. Capitalize on those connections, because they show students that knowledge lives beyond the classroom walls and can be applied in a variety of ways.


Embrace the Process

When incorporating the arts into your teaching, it is important to emphasize the creative process. Don’t expect your first arts integrated lesson to yield pristine art products. Rather, celebrate the deep learning and discovery that takes place as students explore a new artistic process. You may be surprised by the problem-solving and critical thinking that takes place through simple explorations of artistic materials and processes.


Creativity requires risk, so don’t be afraid to get messy and learn from your mistakes. By modeling this attitude, your students will be more likely to engage in their artmaking with confidence. The lessons learned by trying something new can contribute to a collaborative community within your classroom.



Arts integration thrives on meaningful collaboration between teachers, students, community members, and local art institutions. Connect with your colleagues to generate ideas and plan arts integrated instruction. Seek out an art teacher at your school if you are looking for ideas to engage students in meaningful artistic processes.


Expand your network by connecting with local artists in your area. Invite an artist or performer to your classroom or plan an artist-in-residency for your school. Broaden your students’ exposure to art by taking them to a local art museum or musical production as a part of an arts-integrated unit. These experiences, whether big or small, will engage and inspire your students and foster their curiosity and love for learning.


Arts Integrated Unit


Big Idea: Perspective


This arts-integrated science unit connects the big idea of perspective as it relates to the position of the planets and stars within the solar system, and perspective with which artists view the world. Opportunities for kinesthetic learning help solidify this abstract concept for young students. The goal is that by the end of the unit, students develop the knowledge that objects can appear different depending one’s unique perspective.


“Learning about our solar system can give students a sense of wonder and perspective. They can ponder and appreciate Earth’s crucial position in our solar system, which makes this planet such an ideal place for us to live. Students may also consider how small our entire world is compared to some of our fellow planets, the Sun, and the vastness of space. For some students, this perspective might provide a sense of scale for their own panoramas and concerns. It may also help students understand why many people are excited about the prospects of discovering and exploring new solar systems, both within our galaxy and beyond” (The Solar System, David Dreier, Learning A-Z).


Enduring Understandings: We are a small but special part of a vast universe. Through artmaking, people make meaning by investigating and developing awareness of their perceptions, knowledge, and experience.


Lessons within the Unit:


Perspective Embodied: Students explore perspective by interacting with concepts kinesthetically. Students position themselves in space as the planets are positioned in the solar system using spherical balls or circular posters to represent planets and stars.


Perspective Drawing: Students use drawing to represent their perspectives of spheres in space. Models guide visual learners toward understanding perspective as it relates to 3D shapes. Students represent perspective using scale and overlapping shapes.


Perspective Discussion: Students discuss the vastness of their world. Students learn that they are a small but special part of a vast universe.


Perspective of Visionary Artists: Explore the diverse perspectives of a variety of selected artists. Students discuss the idea that each artist sees the world in a different way. Students discuss Adam Logan's 8-foot mirrored "Cosmic Egg,” which was inspired by images from space. Students create their own mosaic artwork to represent their perspective of their world. Lesson inspired by field trip to The American Visionary Art Museum.


Writing Extension: Through writing, students create an artist statement that describes how their artwork represents their unique perspective of their world.


Solar System Model: Students collaborate to create a model that represents the position of the planets and stars within the Solar System.