Girl in art class.
Curriculum Inspiration

12 Ideas for Art Integration Across Subjects

Activating a student's artistic side can help make what's murky, clear.

Ask any arts education teacher, and they can tell you the key role the arts play in cognitive development. Ask any core subject teacher, and they can tell you how students come alive when they are given artistic outlets to express learning. Ask The Washington Post, and they can give you The Top 10 Skills Children Learn through the Arts. Now ask yourself, how can I integrate more art in my core subject area classroom?

Integrating the arts is more than just stocking up on markers and crayons. California schools are boosting achievement with tableaus of the Revolutionary War, Underground Railroad drawings, and topographic maps made of beans. KQED News reports how activities such as these have turned around student achievement and had lasting impacts on the English Learner population.

Our collection of ideas for integrating art into core subjects will allow artistic expression to boost the learning in your classroom. Whether this is a starting point with the arts or you’re adding a few more strategies to a growing collection, there’s sure to be an element you can incorporate tomorrow to get achievement through the arts in motion.

Science

  1. Element Collages- http://beyondpenguins.ehe.osu.edu/issue/earths-changing-surface/discovering-science-through-art-based-activities has an amazing collection of scientific discovery through art. With the Element Collage activity, each student is assigned an element to research and given key factors that must be included in a display. After researching and designing an individual collage, all elements are gathered to create an oversized periodic table collage. The stained glass mural lesson included in this collection is also a great learning experience that would make a vibrant display.
  2. Satellite Construction- With this activity from NASA, students can turn ordinary objects into extraordinary designs. After a study of the basic elements of a satellite, students utilize any collection of recyclables or other objects and let their creative juices flow. The result will be a crafty collection of interstellar proportions.
  3. Geographical Dioramas- Let the rainforests or any other geographical region come to life with this diorama lesson from 3D Geography. After students study the attributes and nuances of a region, a shoe box becomes the stage for a 3-D snapshot of what they’ve learned.

Social Studies

  1. Hieroglyphics- A study of Ancient Egypt wouldn’t be complete without hieroglyphics. Younger students can create a simple cartouche of their name like this example from education.com. Older students can use more complex combinations to create messages or short stories that can be decoded by their fellow classmates.
  2. Native American Instruments- Let a study in Native American culture be heard with the sounds of rainsticks and drums. Bright Hub Education offers step-by-step instructions on creating and personalizing these instruments. Through construction, design, and performance, students bring culture to life in the classroom.
  3. Map Making- Take any social studies lesson or unit and let map making exhibit student understanding. Whether students are plotting battles of the Civil War, designing pioneer homesteads, or mapping the entire world, map creation brings an artistic element to the learning process. Borders, mountain ranges, and frontlines become images to be remembered rather than words that may be easily forgotten.

Math

  1. Tessellation Art- The mathematical concepts of translation, rotation, and reflection are exemplified in the art of tessellation. Students can study the artwork of M.C. Escher to see these concepts come alive on the page. Sites like tessellations.org offer instructions and tutorials that allow students to try their hand at tessellation design.
  2. Musical Fractions- Let fractions come alive with the sound of music! We Are Teachers shares how a few glasses, food coloring, and water can turn students into composers with a lesson about fraction discovery.
  3. String Art- Whether students are using pencil and paper or a 3-D design format, string art offers a new perspective on the study of lines, curves, and symmetry. Springboard your lesson with a short video showing how string art is calculus. Cardboard, yarn, and tape area all it takes to get students crafting these string art designs from RAFT.

Language Arts

  1. Book Jackets- Have students design a new book cover or jacket for a favorite read. Students can use a variety of mediums (e.g., sketch, collage, photography) to create a fresh look that showcases what readers can find in the text. They may choose a character, scene, symbol, etc. that best represents an overall concept to be discovered in the selection.
  2. Creating Soundtracks- Create the soundtrack for any text being studied. Have students choose 5-7 musical selections to represent the theme, characters, rising action, and/or climax of a short story or novel. A brief paragraph or explanation for each song choice detailing what it represents and how it connects to the story would be the perfect accompaniment to this activity.
  3. Artistic Backstories- Select a piece or collection of artwork and have students brainstorm to create the backstory of the image or object. This is often done with collections like Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, but any art can be chosen. Original stories can be created from the art, or students can create a story that relates to a novel, story, or time period being studied.

No matter what subject you teach, integrating the arts is sure to bring your curriculum to life. Allowing students to manipulate topics of study through artistic mediums can have lasting impacts on their overall understanding of the concepts. Let your students reap the benefits of these twelve strategies for integrating art in core subjects.

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