art integration

Arts Integration: Teaching the Next Generation Through the Arts

No two students are alike, and over the many years of hunkering down with standardized tests and working with dozens of teachers, you may have come to understand what best helps you understand the material. Perhaps you were a visual learner, or maybe you were the type with a pack of highlighters and a separate notebook full of rewritten notes.

Maybe you were the type who just didn’t need to study at all. Whatever the case may be, it gets to a point where teachers cannot accommodate everyone’s different styles and ways of understanding. According to The Kennedy Center, an Institution focused on performing arts, it’s not the students who are at fault, but how the curriculum is taught. Classes should not be a test to see how well your memory is, but instead it should teach students how to think through more hands-on methods.

This is where Art Integration comes in, a method of teaching that is not new depending on your teachers, but the center posits that it should be a part of everyday curriculum.

It’s a surprisingly complex method, so we’ll break it down.

This theory of teaching is characterized by three distinct variations of using art as a learning device: arts as a curriculum, arts-enhanced curriculum, and arts-integrated curriculum.


Arts as Curriculum


Arts as the curriculum itself is fairly self-explanatory, and we’re sure most of you have experienced a couple while in grade school. Choir, band, theater; all of these are examples as art being the focus of the lesson.

Art requires careful consideration and builds upon a student’s creativity, patience, and critical thinking. While it may not seem like it has anything to do with mastering the other essential classes, it’s still considered a part of art integration and is important nonetheless.


Arts-Enhanced Curriculum

This variety of learning now focuses on critical subjects such as literature and social studies. This is best summed up with a few examples. Using a song to memorize the states, school projects where you draw scenes from history/books, drawing a diagram of the human anatomy, etc. All of these examples involve putting time and effort into the lessons on the student’s end. When students participate in arts-enhanced teachings, they grow a better understanding of the subject matter by applying it into something that’s both easily digestible and easier to recollect.

Compare this method to simply sitting down and writing the notes and giving them the occasional once-over, and you’ll be able to guess which student will be better off.

This variation can be easily confused with Art-Integrated Curriculum, but the difference is easy to note once you have hands-on experience.


Arts-Integrated Curriculum

Unlike the last variety, arts integrated study is meant to have the student learn about the subject as well as the art form itself. This requires quite a bit of investment from the teacher as well, who would need to be properly educated in integrating art into their teachings. Examples would be performing a play about a historical event, writing a song or poetry about a book, or a dance about human anatomy.

Teachers are critical not only of the accuracy of the information, but also the work clearly put into the dramatization. A high school student can’t turn in a drawing of stick figures having a conversation and still expect to get top marks.

The drawbacks, some have pointed out, include just how much time it takes up, especially when so much is taught throughout the school year. It’s not a quick or easy style of education, but it works wonders nonetheless.


In Conclusion:

Arts integration has not only been proven to be effective in certain classrooms, it gives teachers and parents a way to approach teaching children in a way that doesn’t involve brute-forcing it into the students’ head. Children, especially the youngest, are very impressionable, so it’s believed that the more the arts are involved in everyday subjects the easier it will be for students to understand topics later down the line and develop critical thinking skills.

Understandably, some curriculums aren’t easy to fit into this type of learning, like advanced mathematics. There are also schools that are fairly strict on how or what is to be taught. Although, if teachers and parents decide to work The Kennedy Center’s into the child’s studies and shows great promise, perhaps this will be the future of educating the next generations.



About The Author

Professor David Percival

Director of AHVC programme, and specialist in art and technology, including presence research, mixed and virtual reality.