Moving Through the Curriculum:
Doing the Work in Arts Integration
If reading, science, math, social studies, and language arts are radios, TVs, computers, and refrigerators, none of them is going to work for very long without an electrical current. Art could be that electricity; it's a spark that lights everything up. (Eve Ewing, seventh grade-student, Hawthorne School, Chicago, IL)
Eve's comment above reflects the obvious appeal of an arts approach to learning. Art can be the spark that engages students and draws them into learning. But usually just having the spark is not enough. There is genuine work involved in engaging the arts in a classroom. The process of integrating art takes revising, reversing, and reworking, as philosopher and parent David A. White (1998) describes:
It is said that Mozart composed most of his great works in his mind and then more or less casually wrote them out just for the sake of a copyist, his income, and, we gratefully add, for posterity. But Mozart was blessed by some divine power; he was, in this respect, surely an exception. Much more typical was Beethoven, whose sketchbooks indicate that the feeling of inexorable power surging through so much of his music emanated from great art produced only after considerable writing, rewriting, revising, reversing, and all manner of process-related struggles and agonizing – plus, one suspects, no small amount of boiler room cursing when the pursuit of musical greatness wasn't going the way the deaf master intended. (p. 1)
This chapter discusses how teachers in classrooms have worked through the process of arts integration on a daily basis. Most children, teachers, and artists are not Mozarts; we are, in the main, Beethovens in the rough, working hard to achieve what we can and learning along the way. Working through the curriculum happens when the students arrive. First, there is the process of breaking ground and making classrooms look different. Then students and teachers learn to collaborate through the arts. As teachers, children, and artists work through the curriculum, they learn about the processes in the arts and processes in subject area disciplines. The glamor of finished products does not come without this day-to-day work. Understanding how those processes work together, on parallel paths, further informs arts integration in classrooms. They constitute the work of moving through the curriculum.