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Arts integration deepens learning

Classroom teachers expressing their creative side at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.

Teachers colloborate to compose song lyrics.

Participants making masks out of trash.

In Mid-Michigan, teachers are learning how -- and why -- to infuse the arts into students’ everyday experiences, thanks to a partnership between Ingham Intermediate School District and the MSU Federal Credit Union Institute for Arts & Creativity at Wharton Center for the Performing Arts.
The two organizations have been Kennedy Center Partners in Education since 2008 for the purpose of providing professional learning opportunities for teachers about arts integration. Through the program, teachers form teams in their buildings to implement arts integrated lessons, projects, units of study and even yearlong themes. Teams include grade level and subject matter teachers, arts specialists (music, visual arts, dance or theatre) and a building administrator.
Arts integration is an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both. – The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2010)
Teams initiate their year with a three-day summer institute where teachers are exposed to four art forms, pick up instructional strategies and engage in curriculum design work. During the academic year, teaching artists provide workshops for teachers before providing classroom residencies for students. Teachers deepen and refine their practice in professional learning communities about implementing arts integration and they showcase results for students in the spring.
Teachers say that arts-integrated curriculum and instruction requires students to engage in complex learning and significantly deepens the learning process. While it can be complicated to present content through an arts-integrated approach, the benefits for students are worth it. 
Teacher teams collaborate to share ideas and best practices in order to help everyone see and understand what a quality arts-integration curriculum and instruction looks like. Arts integration is not a substitute for arts-discipline based curriculum, and works best when teacher teams have time and support to plan, implement and document innovate practice.
As of spring 2015, a survey of 30 participating teachers revealed that an estimated 6,385 students in Mid-Michigan received some curriculum and instruction through an arts integrated approach. The survey also captured what the teachers had to say about the benefits for students and impact on their teaching. Here’s just a sample:
“I think that integrating content areas really allows students to grow in their own creative processes, by allowing time to revise and reimagine work. Sometimes we, for time's sake, rush them through assignments.”
– Colleen Shoup, visual arts specialist, Greyhound Intermediate, Eaton Rapids Public Schools
“The biggest benefit, in my opinion, is that my students' voices are heard and honored. They are creating original, authentic work that addresses many of the multiple intelligences and varying learning styles. They are actively engaged in 21st century skills and they are having fun.”
– Colleen Martell, fifth grade, Greyhound Intermediate, Eaton Rapids Public Schools
“My students benefit by gaining a deeper level of learning through research, presenting, writing, sculpting and dancing.”
– Kristina Foley, fourth grade, Explorer Elementary School, Williamston Community Schools
“I believe it enhances both my teaching and their learning as they added the element of drama and expression to the learning of a foreign language.”
– Carrie Hartges Spanish, Explorer Elementary School, Williamston Community Schools
I like teaching art, but I am so moved by the depth of learning that occurs through arts integration that I find my preference is to use arts integration while teaching.”
– Liz Wylegal, artist in residence, Williamston Community Schools
“My students' reading comprehension increases as a result of acting out stories and using tableaux.”
– Karen Bologna, first grade, Sycamore Elementary, Holt Public Schools
To attend the annual Arts Advocacy breakfast held at Wharton Center December 9, 2015, contact Chris Quinn 517-244-1285. Sample student work will be showcased, award-winning composer Daniel Kelly will perform and speak.
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