Art and Academic Integration

Art and Academic Integration

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As an educator it is important to me to make my lessons engaging and dynamic.  As a dancer it is important to me to continue practicing my artistry and sharing that with others.  Within my lessons, assessments and unit plans created at Columbia College Chicago, I continuously find ways to integrate the arts into various academic areas; and in my work as a dance instructor and teaching artist outside of Columbia, I always attempt to find academic connections to my art, as I believe the arts are a vital part to elementary education, and academics and the arts should not stand alone.

[flickr id=”10443512045″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”none”]This past summer, my cohort took a class called Methods of Teaching Arts and Humanities, which was all about Arts Integration!  In this class we were visited by many guest lecturers of all teaching and art disciplines.  We studied methods of how to integrate music, dance, visual art, and drama into the core academic content areas of science, mathematics, social studies, and language arts.  We also spent a lot of time creating ourselves, creating both our own art and our own adaptions to academic lessons to integrate the arts.  This class was so valuable, as it taught us not only should the arts be a major focus in education, but that it doesn’t need to be separate from the rest of the world.  Yes, there is a place for arts specialists: art teachers, dance teacher, music teachers, and drama teachers (and I continue to fully advocate for them, as I have been and still am one), but art shouldn’t stop when students leave the art specialist’s room or studio.  Art should continue to be infused into other subject areas as well as other areas of life, and can be used as a vehicle for learning of any kind.

[flickr id=”10986243345″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”medium” group=”” align=”none”] Photo: Chicago Public Schools Educators and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Teaching Artists exploring movement at a collaborative Professional Development

Recently, I have been involved in some awesome projects that have allowed the educator and artist in me to collaborate, and it is making a world of difference in my teaching and my work.  I started teaching at Darwin Elementary and Hendricks Elementary as a Teaching Artist for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago with the Movement as Partnership programs.  For these programs, other teaching artists and myself create dynamic lessons based on dance concepts for students to learn at the elementary level.  Students explore dance through the elements of body, energy, space and time, and discover what it is like to be in the role of a performer, an audience member and a choreographer.  Students create work that incorporates both concrete and abstract ideas, practice the use of dance elements and structure, and are pushed to create original, authentic movement.  I am also part of other residencies at HSDC that focus on integrating dance and the core academic curriculums (although connections to academic content are constantly made during our dance concept residencies as well).

[flickr id=”10986244715″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”medium” group=”” align=”none”]Image: Dance Elements and Brain Dance

I have been integrating dance, and other arts disciplines, into all of my lessons and unit plans at Columbia.  I have also integrated concepts from all academic content areas into my dance classes as a dance teacher at an elementary school before I started this program.  I enjoy collaborating with both the general education, classroom teachers and arts specialists to create curriculum that not only focuses on dance, but also focuses on academic concepts such as making inferences, force and weight, balance, geometry and shape, literature and many others.  When connections are found between content areas, and both the arts specialist (or teaching artist) and classroom teacher are completely committed to collaboration, students learn so much more than they ever would sitting in a classroom learning one subject in an isolated fashion.

[flickr id=”10986456193″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”none”]Image: Children’s Literature to integrate with art

While creating lessons for Columbia College, student teaching, and my own current and previous teaching experiences, I have found many integrated lessons to be engaging to students and to yield great learning outcomes in both academic and art disciplines.  Here are just a few connections that have appeared throughout some of my integrated lessons:

*A middle school science unit combining: weight, gravity, and force in Science with heavy and light energies, counter-pull and counter-weight, and sharing weight in Dance

*A primary elementary language arts unit combining: story structure in Reading-Literature Comprehension with tableau creation in Drama

*An intermediate elementary mathematics unit combining: multiplication and division in Mathematics-Operations and Algebraic Thinking with notes, measures, repetition and rhythms in Music

There are many other connections out there, and I encourage all pre-service educators, current and future teachers, artists, and others interested, to pursue collaborative approaches to teaching that include integrated curriculums that explore and connect content both in academics and the arts.