Tips Tuesday: Arts Integration
September 4th 2012
One of World Savvy’s primary approaches to engage students in community and world affairs is arts integration. This is a great way to get students who may traditionally be turned off by or excluded from a discussion of international affairs to find their voice on issues like water scarcity, food deserts, or climate change. Edutopia recently came out with a great article on the importance of arts integration, which included some useful tips for getting started. I found this article to be really useful, so I thought I would offer World Savvy’s perspective as a compliment to it, since arts integration is such a central component of what we do. Here are a few World Savvy tips on arts integration:
Turn teachers into artists and learners: Many teachers got very limited arts education in their own schooling, so there is often a level of discomfort when it comes to integrating the arts into their classrooms. At World Savvy, we believe everyone is an artist and work to cultivate the artist in every teacher so that they can, in turn, do the same thing with their students. Our approach to professional development puts the teachers in the role of a learner and asks them to get their hands dirty (with pencil, paint, clay) and their bodies moving (through improve, dance, games). The global issues we explore with the teachers come alive through this interactive and engaging approach to professional development, so that when teachers get back to the classroom, these activities are in their muscle memory and come forward much more naturally. Students can tell a difference when teachers are excited about a projects, versus when they are resistant themselves!
Make it personal: Integrating arts into curriculum on global affairs is an excellent way to make complex global issues like environmental justice much more tangible through a personal examination of the issue. For example, one of the activities in World Savvy’s Sustainable Communities Collaborator’s Guide invites students to write about a personal s/hero and think about the characteristics that make this person special. They then review the concept of environmental justice and learn about several youth activists working for environmental justice, what World Savvy calls an Eco s/hero. After they’ve learned about the Eco s/hero, students design a t-shirt that represents this person, their beliefs and actions. Finally, students bring what they’ve learned back to the personal level by choosing an environmental justice issue in their own community (their school, their neighborhood, their country, or the broader world), and become their own super s/hero alter-egos by taking portraits of themselves that they enhance with paint, markers and other art materials. This activity is just one example of how, through arts integration, the global becomes personal and, as a result, much more meaningful to the students.
Showcase Artists: Arts integration does not always have to involve the students creating art. There may not be time to take on an art project in every lesson, but arts can still be integrated into lessons by showing photographs, reading poems, watching short films, etc. World Savvy’s collaborator’s guide is filled with beautiful and inspiring artwork from around the globe to drive home the concepts explored within it. For example, in an activity exploring bottled water, try showing the piece 80 Liters Water Box, by Ichi Ikeda. This piece, exhibited at World Environment Day at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo Norway is a commentary on water as a basic human right. Ichi Ikeda and community members backpacked 80 liter water boxes to move water along the Kedogawa River in the southern district of japan to raise awareness that water is one of the standards of an ecologically sustainable future. What better way to make an issue come alive than by showing how it has through art and media! Using student-produced art work is even better, as it shows students that other young people are making a statement on these issues and they can too.
Get out and see things: Field trips and community connections offer students a new, hands on ‘way of seeing’ their local community. If designed well, they also can provide students with tools for analyzing their stake in global topics at a local level. Arts-integrated field trips should also provide students the opportunity to complete original media and arts projects on the field trip site, helping them to understand local and global connections to the issues they are exploring. For example, students could take a field trip to a local recycling plant. While there, they could collect recycled materials that they then upcycle into their own pieces of art that reflect what they learned on the field trip. This is just one of many ways to combine experiential learning and arts together for a powerful experience that is sure to engage your students and deepen their learning.
All of these strategies will be explored in World Savvy’s upcoming Sustainable Communities Professional Development Institute in October. For workshop dates and information, click here.
Interested in bringing a World Savvy workshop on arts integration to your school? Click here to learn more.