Renaissance in the Classroom: Arts Integration and Meaningful Learning

By Gail Burnaford; Arnold Aprill et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Getting Started With Arts Integration:
Finding the Elegant Fit

It's a little bit scary to try new projects because a lot of them have failed. I have worked with teachers on units where the integration wasn't elegant; it was just a bumpy ride the whole way. The projects that were the most well integrated were the most successful. I worked with a teacher developing a science & video project. We did it for 4 years; we changed it and pushed forward the things that worked each year, but clearly the concepts we each brought were strong.

I really felt like I was able to accomplish my art skills, and she felt like she was really able to accomplish her science skills, and they worked very well together. The big picture idea was to compare the process of invention with the process of making videotape. The students came to think of themselves as both artists and inventors. It was really an elegant fit. (Deb Diehl)

This phrase, elegant fit, seems to be a wonderfully appropriate entree into the discussion of how arts integration works and what it looks like. Educational journals and books describe interdisciplinary curriculum, integrated subject areas, and strategies for teaching concepts and processes across the curriculum (Beane, 1997; Brazee & Capelluti, 1995; Gross, 1997; Jacobs, 1989). What is the goal of such initiatives in schools? What are we trying to achieve when we look for the links between math and science, between social studies and literature, or between an art form and writing? We are essentially searching for the elegant fit that takes learners to a more authentic understanding and a deeper way of knowing by offering connections between subject areas and bridges to the students' own lives.

An elegant fit implies that separate pieces of the curriculum have been brought together to create a new and more satisfying whole. The elegant fit occurs when teachers find the right forms and processes to deliver ideas and when students are engaged in the learning process. The arts are ideally suited for unifying curriculum because they help give a form and shape to knowledge.

Educator Elliot Eisner (1998) said: Both the artist and the scientist create forms through which the world is viewed. Both artist and scientist make qualitative judgements about the fit, the coherence, the economy, 'the rightness,' of the forms they create (p. 35). Arts integration begins then as a search for the rightness of fit between domains of knowledge and across the boundaries of disciplines. Arts integration is a powerful vehicle to cross these boundaries of core subjects and art concepts, affective and cognitive modes of expression, form and content, processes and products,

-25-

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