By Robin Houdek, arts educator
At the end of June, I attended The Kennedy Center’s Arts Integration Conference, Exploring an Approach to Teaching. It was by far one of the most inspiring and informative conferences I have ever attended. Before going, I didn’t know what to expect. What exactly is arts integration and how is different from arts as curriculum? Would it be useful for me in my classroom practice or was the purpose for me to bring back most of what I learned to share with colleagues?
The conference started off with a definition of arts integration; a clear place for all of us to start, leaving no room for assumptions about why we were there or what arts integration is. Arts integration, as defined by the Kennedy Center, is 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.
Not only did they clearly define it for all attendees, but they modeled it through every aspect of the conference. The sessions I attended were led by a diverse group of artists and arts administrators (dancer, poet, actor, and arts administrator) who provided thorough resources and useful materials to take away, and modeled how the arts can be integrated in a meaningful way, giving equal attention to all of the content objectives. They truly practice what they preach.
This conference left me with a clearer understanding of arts integration, tools to implement this approach, ideas to share with others, and strategies for authentic assessment and documentation of learning. These tools will be necessary for pushing this idea forward and sustaining support for arts integration in our schools and communities.
Prior to the conference, I would have said that arts integration, in theory, is an approach to teaching where the arts (drama, dance, music, and visual arts) are used to enhance the general education curriculum. I now know that arts integration, as defined by the Kennedy Center, is about teaching through the arts. Objectives, assessments, and documentation of student learning are all designed to address both the subject area (science, social studies, math) and the art form through which that subject is studied. We learned science through dance, writing through poetry and performance, and history through shadow puppetry. It turns out there were many take-aways that will inform my own practice and the collaborative work with colleagues. I can’t wait to share!
About the Author
Robin Houdek began her career in the arts as a graphic designer and photographer after receiving her BFA from Indiana University in 2000. In 2006, she graduated with her MAT from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since 2006, Robin has taught art in a variety of K-12 settings, in both Indianapolis and Portland, Oregon. She is currently the Art Studio specialist at the IPS Butler Lab School #60.