As an English teacher turned artist, I’ve been excited about the integration of arts in education.
A recent article posted on the Southern California Public Radio website reported how the San Diego Unified School District was demonstrating their success in bringing the arts into regular subjects and sharing that success with teachers across the state. In this district teaching artists join classroom teachers once a week in 22 schools and co-teach lessons that weave art into the standard curriculum. Administrators believe that students will need this type of integrated education in the 21st century to be successful.
The research is there to back them up. Educators now understand that arts integration has many benefits in addition to creative expression. Two were explained by author Amanda Koonlaba in a February 2015 article in Education Week: it helps students learn and retain knowledge and allows them an alternate form to demonstrate understanding. It may also reduce the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students.
But more dramatic was her story about one of her students. Koonlaba said she asked her elementary class what kinds of arts lessons they had enjoyed in their core subjects. One young student explained that he loved visual art because creating helped him “forget the bad,” and he needed that “more than once a week.”
So do I.