arts integration

The Casualties


Creative writing.







The list goes on.

Take a good look, because here are the casualties.

Since 1990, creativity has been on a steady decline. While IQ scores are rising, creativity scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking are doing just the opposite. Starting in the sixth grade, according to a study called The Creativity Crisis by Kyung Hee Kim, scores either decrease or plateau. Meanwhile, the decrease is most notable in kindergarten through third grade.

Sir Ken Robinson, educational strategist, concedes that our rigid educational system is an anachronism that wipes out divergent thinking. Robinson defines divergent thinking as “the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question and lots of possible ways of interpreting a question.” He stresses that divergent thinking is “an essential capacity for creativity.”

Robinson quotes Breakpoint and Beyond, citing a test given for divergent thinking, which measured the capacity of 1,500 children in a longitudinal study. These children were tested in kindergarten, then again from ages 8-10, and again from ages 13-15. 98% of kindergarteners scored at genius level on this test. Meanwhile, only 32% of those same students scored at genius from ages 8-10, with only 10% scoring at genius from ages 13-15. The same test given to 200,000 adults produced a 2% score of genius among participants.

creativity scoresRobinson says that this tells us something: “We all have this capacity…and it mostly deteriorates.”  Robinson’s conclusion about these students: “They’ve become educated.” He cites the idea of “one correct answer” being drilled into our student population, as the main culprit.

IQ is going up, but creativity has become the casualty of modern-day education.

Today’s Job Market

What is the value of the arts in our society today? There are those who understand that arts are valuable for their own sake, while others tend to look at it from a business perspective: how can we benefit?

creativityThe future has turned to the STEM disciplines, but STEM is being revamped to STEAM. Art and design is making its way into the spot that traditionally science, technology, engineering, and math have dominated. With innovation and creative thinking at the helm of these disciplines, art and design is realizing its rightful place among them. This means that it is on the verge of garnering the respect it deserves. After all, we know that funding for the arts is the first thing to get cut from schools, when budgets start to get chopped.

In Combining Robotics with Poetry? Art and Engineering Can Co-Exist innovation is recognized as replacing the seat that manufacturing once took in our economy:

“As Enrico Moretti in his book, ‘The New Geography of Jobs,’ notes, for the first time in history, ‘the factor that is scarce is not physical capital, but creativity.’ The decline is driving the divergence in economies and in families’ wallets. The majority of a product’s value today, he writes, comes from its original idea, not the manufacturing of it. The latter can be done cheaply almost anywhere else, but the ‘good’ jobs lie in innovation, design, and engineering.”

Creativity, art, design, and divergent thinking are given priority from an economic standpoint. From art and design being recognized as a discipline aligned with STEM, to innovative thinking being recognized as the main skill for highly sought after jobs today, art and creativity have come to be understood as exceptionally valuable in the business world.

Growth Mindset, Self-Assessment, Independent Learning

theater-faceWant to know how to encourage a growth mindset in your students? One school insists it is through the arts that they teach their students to embrace error and failure, forming an ability to truly self-assess. New Mexico School for the Arts is a charter school that “assists passionate young artists in developing their full potential through a rigorous mastery arts and academic education.”

NMSA is a top-rated, award-winning school, and it seems that art has the main part to play in their success. As artists, the students understand that their abilities improve through their diligence and perseverance. Critique and feedback is the central way through which students refine their art and ultimately their learning. Students keep critique journals, taking note of both positive feedback and constructive criticism. For NMSA students, failure is embraced as the pathway to success.

Edutopia featured NMSA in its Schools That Work Series. The clip below shows how to cultivate a growth mindset and encourage self-assessment to help foster independent learners.

How Does Arts Integration Work?

arts integrationIntegrated Arts Academy at H.O. Wheeler (IAA) in Burlington, Vermont is an art integrated magnet school.  Bobby Riley, the principal, seems to feel that arts integration gives the students a sense of self-confidence, encourages higher analytical thinking and connection building, and offers the best way to differentiate instruction for different interests, abilities, and types of learning. Some documented outcomes include rising test scores on standardized testing, as well as elimination of discipline issues during art blocks.

So what exactly does arts integration mean? Unlike NMSA–where academic periods are held in the early part of the day and art subjects are relegated to the latter part of the day–for IAA students arts are integrated into their academic subjects:

“What does art integration look like? Recently, a fourth-grade lesson on geometry examined the work of the famous Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky. The class talked about his work and then created their own art using angles in the style of Kandinsky. Students had to be able to identify the angles they’d used and point them out in their art.”

Students simultaneously learn about art, while also learning their core academic content. Furthermore, they are able to apply their academic knowledge through art.

Edutopia featured a similar arts integration school, Two Rivers Public Charter School, for its Schools That Work Series. Watch the clip below to find out how arts integration is feeding this school’s success, while helping students cultivate their love of learning:

Art allows students to express themselves and their knowledge, bringing passion forward into their learning, by making it their own. It also forces the students to really understand the subject matter, in order to be able to replicate it, or comment on it, through art.

Here’s How to Revive A Love for Learning

You might love biology, or trigonometry, or the Cold War, or British Literature, but how do you transfer that passion to students? Let’s learn how to make our lessons art integrated.

The internet is full of ideas for arts integration–from free lesson plans to tips on developing your own. A quick search should guide you in the right direction.

Do you have an art teacher in your school? Maybe he/she would be willing to work with you and provide some direction and feedback? Perhaps, you might be able to get him/her to give a workshop to other teachers who are also interested. Reach out, form alliances, join groups, and get the passion for arts integration started.

sculptureStart with your curriculum and see how you can make it come alive for your students. Be creative with different art forms–from drama to dance, from drawing to cinematography. Give your students a project, and let them become the masters of the art and the knowledge behind it.

A most remarkable professor for my Shakespearian Literature class in college allowed us an optional arts integrated project, where we could use art to interpret Romeo and Juliet. I chose to make a sculpture, having fun with both the project and the reading, while also bringing in my unique experiences and interpretation.

Think back to your school and college experiences and the educators who inspirited you. Learn from them and push the boundaries forward, creating unique and exciting opportunities for your students, as well.



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