HOT TOPIC: Visual Arts
Volume 1, Issue 20 - February 6, 2005
"More than any other subject area in the curriculum, the arts are an agent for integration. Many of the disciplines we teach are bodies of knowledge unto themselves, but the arts make connections to everything we teach. In working with faculty on integrating curriculum, it is often difficult to help teachers see those connections when they are responsible for teaching specific content. But with the arts, integration suddenly becomes easier to achieve (see http://surfaquarium.com/new_unit_model.pdf). Most importantly, the arts create natural, real world connections which students can see and appreciate. While Johnny may ask “Why do I need to learn how to diagram a sentence?” and Susie may complain “When will I ever have to prove a theorem in real life?” no one ever questions the aesthetic beauty and the kinesthetic processes which make up the experience of visual art.
And the arts are not just about drawing and painting. There is the body of knowledge that accompanies the arts: the historical context of important works, the stories behind significant artists, the elements which combine to make a piece of art successful, and the critical thinking which takes place in critiquing and interpreting a work of art are all significant integration agents in the curriculum. Why did the Blue Boy create such a scandal when it was first exhibited? Who were the patrons of the great artists of the Renaissance and how did they help shape our modern world? What are the mathematical properties of cubist art? Why do Christ and Lincoln appear in surrealist works? All of these questions prompt investigations into the science, math, history and language arts of western society.
With the inception of the Internet, works of art that have traditionally only been available to view through books, catalogues and field trips are now available online for easy access to everyone. What’s more, there are virtual art experiences, compendia which integrate art events with other important moments in time, and simulations which promote higher level thinking within an arts context. The question is no longer “How do I access these materials?” but “How can I work these riches into my classroom instruction?”
If you’re not integrating the arts into your classroom, you should be. Even if you’re not an art expert yourself, the resources I offer in this week’s Digital Dozen should give you leads on materials that will allow you to be a successful arts educator regardless of your grade level. ….."
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