In an environment where numbers and letters rule the day, the question is often how to engage students so that critical learning takes place in a way that is interesting and meaningful to students. Under the direction of Somerville Public Schools’ Visual Arts Department Head, Dr. Luci Prawdzik, Somerville students are learning that the beauty of art transcends the visual realm with more practical applications in the core curriculum.
Staffed with 13 certified Art Educators that serve the diverse community of the Somerville Public Schools, the SPS Visual Arts Department employs a curriculum based on National and State standards for teaching Visual Arts to students in grades K-12. Using a balanced curriculum, the SPS Visual Arts program is designed to be motivating, stimulating, and to foster the concept of creative problem-solving through creative and aesthetic learning. As students are reaping the intrinsic benefits of creative expression, they are also gaining broader knowledge in the core curriculum subjects through an integrated approach to the Visual Arts.
In the “2009-2010 Report on Critical Connections between Math and Visual Art in the Somerville Public Schools with a Focus on Grades 5 through 8” authored by Julie Gray (Service Scholar, Tufts University) working in collaboration with the Somerville Public Schools and Dr. Prawdzik, the often overlooked connection between Art and Math is discussed.
According to the document, “…both art and math require students to understand and conceptualize data that is not in a specific format. In art class, students need to envision their final product and properly develop a means to achieve that final product. In a math class, students often need to represent problems, such as in algebra, by using diagrams and figures. Each of these actions calls upon students to create a realistic mental picture.” It stands to reason that similar connections exist between art and science, and art and language arts. The key is in making those connections relevant in the core curriculum and finding the most effective method of integration.
So how does art integration at Somerville Public Schools actually look? There are a multitude of approaches that can be implemented to integrate art and the core subjects to provide an engaging and creative lesson. At Somerville High School, for example, students have created models of Southwestern style structures using math and engineering techniques to ensure that the models were architecturally sound and accurate.
Sixth grade students introduced to compasses and their purpose in math class received reinforcement of this lesson through an arts integration project that involved the creation of a symmetrical design. Art Standards learning goals for this project included (a) expanding the repertoire of 2D and 3D art processes, techniques and materials; (b) drawing in one- and two-point perspective, and (c) sharing collegial comments about exhibited work. The following Math Standards were met in this same project: (a) Geometric Figures; and (b) Geometry and Measurement.
A brief glance at some of the art topics offered in grades 6 through 8 suggest additional ways in which art and core subjects merge to enhance learning. Those topics include the following.
- Expand repertoire of 2D and 3D art processes, techniques, and materials.
- Integrate the relationship of the principles of design and the creation of compositions including line, shape and pattern, circles and points, abstraction, curvilinear and rectilinear lines.
- Analyze works of art and artists verbally and in writing, explain meaning of works and their impact on society, their symbolism and visual metaphor.
- Experiment with sculptural work in assemblages and additive pieces.
- Demonstrate ability to articulate and/or write criteria for artistic work; assess and reflect about work in written and/or oral form.
Students learn in a variety of ways. Integration offers an approach to teaching and learning that draws on the strengths of different skills to more thoroughly engage a student in a way that may better suit their individual learning style.
Susana H. Morgan, SPS Director of Communications and Grants