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Making Content Connections Through Arts Integration

Education Update (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, VA) , March, 2009


Dwindling school resources, as well as pressure to meet the demands of the No Child Left Behind Act, have led many schools to narrow the curriculum, leaving behind arts instruction. But, through carefully designed integrated curricula, educators can still provide students with arts education.

Arts education advocates argue that while teaching art for art's sake is certainly beneficial for all students, studies also show that participating in the arts can actually boost student achievement in other academic areas. Therefore, arts groups are partnering with schools to provide professional development for teachers interested in integrating arts instruction across content areas.

In 2004, the Dana Arts and Cognition Consortium assembled neuroscientists from seven U.S. universities to study how arts training can enhance academic performance. The findings, detailed in Learning, Arts, and the Brain, The Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition (2008), show that young people interested in "doing" art studying and performing music, dance, and drama may also demonstrate increased motivation to learn in other subject areas, which leads to improved cognition.

Arts integration curriculum design gives all students not just those identified as "gifted and talented" the opportunity to express their creativity and to learn critical-thinking, problem-solving, and innovation skills. Examples of programs integrating arts in schools are described.

"Statistical research ([by] Americans for the Arts) indicates young people who participate in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, perform community service, participate in math and science fairs, and win writing awards, and three times more likely to win school attendance awards," says Linda Dean, Executive Director, Alabama Institute for Education. Integrating the arts just may help to keep students interested and involved.

Subjects Covered: education

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