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Using the Arts to Strengthen All Subjects

Most people consider the arts and sciences two separate fields of study. Today, however, STEM and other subjects are benefitting from the incorporation of the arts. If you are working toward an online bachelor’s or master’s degree to become a science teacher, you may have read about STEM education. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Arts integration across STEM curricula can deepen student learning in these and other subjects.

What Are the Arts?

The term “the arts” includes music (instrumental and vocal), drama, dance, creative writing, crafts, painting and film, among other forms. The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ CETA program defines arts integration as “An approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both.”

Benefits of Integrating the Arts Into STEM and Other Subjects

Studies show that integrating the arts correlates with the following:

  • Improved test scores in math and English.
  • A boost in creativity.
  • An increase in student engagement.
  • Improved collaboration and communication skills

Arts Integration in the Classroom

Arts integration can be a part of every teacher’s instructional approach. New strategies have become available as an interest in arts integration has grown, due in part to research touting the social, personal and academic benefits.

The following are six sample arts integration strategies.

1. Mirroring

Mirroring is a drama and dance technique used in teaching math skills. Students use movement, concentration and problem-solving skills to share the understanding of math concepts. This method involves pairing students and asking them to copy or “mirror” each other’s actions.

2. Stepping Into the Painting

Students inspect a chosen painting and interpret its meaning based on what they see. The students then discuss their interpretations and collaborate to create a story based on the artwork.

3. Call and Response

“Call and response” is a technique often used in music classes. This technique improves fluency and increases compositional and improvisational skills. It can benefit both reading and math instruction. Since it is rhythm-based, the instructor can guide the exercise with handclapping or finger snapping.

4. Letters and Numbers

This technique incorporates dance and movement to teach English skills. The teacher challenges students to create letter and number forms with their bodies through movement. Classmates can guess which letter or number the student is demonstrating.

5. Character Questioning

This technique incorporates drama to understand story character and improve reading comprehension. Students take turns assuming the role of a fictional or real character. The student playing the character answers questions posed by fellow classmates. For example, when reading the story, “Little Red Riding Hood” the students ask the wolf, “Why did you put on Grandma’s nightgown?” or “Why did you take a shortcut to Grandma’s house?”

6. Sound Vibrations

This technique combines science and art in an activity involving vibration and sound. Take a small plastic cup and place a square of aluminum foil on top, shaping the foil to make a tight lid. Hold the foil in place with a rubber band. Place a small amount of salt on the surface. Ask the students to make different sounds by clapping their hands, using their voices near the cup, or playing instruments. The granules may jump in response to the vibrations. The louder and lower the sound the higher the salt may jump. The salt may even dance when it is near a radio or loud speaker. Students can see the vibrations caused by sound waves.

Arts integration improves STEM education and related subjects including English, grammar and reading comprehension. Innovative teachers can take advantage of the arts to effectively teach STEM and other associated curricula.

Learn about the UT Arlington M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction — Science Education online program.


The Washington Post: More Schools Are Working to Integrate the Arts Into Classroom Learning

Teacher Channel: What You Can Do When the Arts are Missing from Your Elementary School

Scholastic: Art Integration: Easy Ideas Combining Science and Art

California State University Long Beach: Definition of “the Arts” by the United States Congress

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