Student Engagement Subscribe to RSS

Integrating Art and Politics to Improve High School Student Engagement

| Mariko Nobori

Editor's Note: AP government teacher Dayna Laur and art teacher Katlyn Wolfgang collaborated to create a joint project between their classes. After Edutopia produced the video below, Dayna and Katlyn, who teach at Central York High School in York, Pennsylvania, shared their strategies for creating a successful integrated studies project. You can also find free resources and downloads from from Central York High School.

Comment on this video, get resources from Katlyn and Dayna, and more

How did you structure the project so that the students gained info from one another but also maintained focus on the curricular goals of your respective classes?

Katlyn Wolfgang (art): The overall assignment was structured for sculpture students to create a sculpture based on the principles presented by the AP government class. With this overarching goal, I created a general outline for the students to follow when they were brainstorming for their political sculpture. They were instructed to perform the following tasks:

1. Research a policy.

2. Determine their stance on the policy.

3. Think of imagery that could reflect the policy and another set of images that could reflect their stance on the policy.

4. Design a blueprint indicating how their structure will be built (wire structures and their measurements).

At the end of their brainstorming, students had to present a project proposal before they could begin construction. Within this proposal, students were responsible for explaining the public policy they'd picked and the sculpture's structure, imagery, and relation to the policy. They were also required to consider the impact they wanted their sculpture to have.

Dayna Laur (AP government): After an introductory lesson on the four major types of public policy (majoritarian, client, interest group, and entrepreneurial) and the categories of public policy (foreign policy, social welfare, economic, and environmental), my AP government students worked in groups to research relevant current-day examples of each. They had to fully understand their assigned topics in order to answer any questions posed to them. They also had to give feedback on whether or not the sculptures were portraying the public policy issues accurately. Additionally, my students had to show their own understanding of the initial categories and types of public policy in choosing their current-day examples. Feedback, reflection, and revision were a part of this process through their AP collaborative groups. Students had to agree that the policies posted in the wiki truly represented the types of public policies being referenced.

How did your students actually collaborate with one another to integrate the concepts they were learning?

KW: The students from my sculpture class were able to collaborate with the AP government class through a variety of means, most involving technology:

1. All students collaborated on a wiki created by the AP government students. AP government and sculpture students were responsible for including specific information that allowed the other students to continue on with the assignment. This information also served as documentation for the entire process.

2. The wiki also functioned as an area for students to share resources; the AP government students provided information concerning public policies, which drove the designs and concepts for the sculpture students. The sculpture students submitted their brainstorming ideas to the wiki and gained insightful feedback for their future creations.

3. The wiki discussion tab also provided a forum for online collaboration. Students held conversations about topics and gained important information through this activity.

DL: My AP government students collaborated to create a wiki to house the information for use by the sculpture students. Next, I taught a mini-lesson to the sculpture students on how to use the wiki and what the role of my students would be in the project. The sculpture students then used the discussion feature in the wiki to post questions to my students regarding the policies they researched. After my students posted their responses, the sculpture students posted their ideas for possible sculptures and elicited feedback from my AP student groups.

Were there any challenges in getting your students to move beyond their curricular comfort zones and into the curriculum of the other class?

KW: Generally speaking, no. However the most challenging aspect for students is the brainstorming process. My students often like to settle on the first idea that comes to mind, which is generally clichéd and not metacognitively challenging. I find that developing abstract thought among my students is an area of constant focus no matter the topic that surrounds the assignment.

DL: My students were concerned that the sculpture students "wouldn't get" the concept of public policy or accurately represent the policies they researched. However, we had a discussion on how there are different political positions regarding each public policy and how it was enacted, and it was the prerogative of the sculpture students to take a viewpoint that might be different from my students' viewpoints.

What are some of the ways that you used technology to enhance the integrated concepts and student collaboration?

KW:

1. AP government students compiled their findings onto the wiki, where they discussed various policies and each policy's purpose, support, impact, and history.

2. Sculpture students were able to explore the topics developed by the AP government class, and utilized this information to drive the creation of their sculptures.

3. The discussion feature was activated so that students could gain further clarification concerning policies and seek feedback on their ideas.

4. Sculpture students posted their brainstorming process on the wiki and used it to gain insight on the direction of their ideas from their classmates and AP government students.

5. Finally, end products were posted to the wiki allowing the entire collaborative process -- the fusion of government topics and the arts -- to be viewed together.

DL: Wikispaces was the main collaborative tool between the two groups. However, the AP students first created their collaborative documents using Google Docs. Additionally, the use of Flickr was invaluable for my students to see the sculptures and the progress being made by the sculpture students. Each tool was necessary to complete the project because the classes did not meet during a common class period.

Do you have any tips you would give to other educators who would like to plan integrated studies projects?

KW: Make sure that you structure your lessons with final goals and supporting tasks. However, don't forget to let the students experience the learning; sometimes the best experiences occur unplanned or unscripted.

When working with another class, make sure you have daily updates with the other educator(s) concerning your students' progress on specific tasks. Do your best to keep up with deadlines but embrace the fact that not all learning can be, or should be, restricted to a time line. With that in mind, always have an activity on the back burner in the event that tasks do not align with the predetermined time line.

Finally, be flexible and embrace the collaborative experience.

DL: Integrated studies projects create a connectedness between disciplines that otherwise might seem unrelated to many students. Deliberately searching for ways in which you can mingle standards and content is imperative if you want to create truly authentic experiences because, in the world outside of the classroom, content is not stand-alone. Teachers need to identify areas in which social studies, math, science, reading, writing, art, music, and even physical education cross paths. Once the content and standards have been decided, the planning part falls into place. However, in order to have a truly successful project, it needs to be one that meets all of the elements of project-based learning and not turn into just another project. Teachers also need to leverage the opportunities presented to them by collaborative technology tools and not be dissuaded if the two classes involved do not meet during the same class period.

see more see less

Comments (6)

Comment RSS
West Fargo

Arts Integration and Politics

Was this helpful?
0

I found this cross-curricular A.P. Government/Politics class with an Art class an excellent model for integrating arts into a class like U.S. Government. Most government classes would not think of working with an art class to teach the students not only about government policy but also about art. I like how the students from both classes collaborated using technology (21st century skills) to put together a project that both demonstrated their knowledge of government polices and how their art matched those policies.

Totally Agree

Was this helpful?
+1

Everything StudentInTheHoodie said is true. I was in the class too and this documentary embellishes what actually happened. The idea was good but in reality the work required was kind of a joke. A lot of what we did was for the sake of the documentary......

Managing Editor and Producer

StudentintheHoodie: Thank you

Was this helpful?
+1

StudentintheHoodie:
Thank you for your comment. We understand that each student has a unique experience, and that yours was different from what we captured in this video. However, our reporters found that the teachers at Central York, such as Dayna Laur and Katlyn Wolfgang, are rigorous in their curriculum and are continuously striving to improve students' learning. While integrated studies is a somewhat new approach at Central York, and not all teachers are using it, our reporting did find that its use at Central York is improving student engagement and performance.

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

Hi SitH - Thanks for your

Was this helpful?
0

Hi SitH - Thanks for your post. I'll confer with the others - including the teachers involved - and get back to you. For the record, we would never delete a post like this.

My take

Was this helpful?
+1

I am one of the students in this video. I can tell you first hand that this video is no more than a feel good documentary that doesn't expose anything. It's propaganda, no more no less.

First off, I was in the social studies class and was playing video games while they were filming this. Just thought that would be a funny tidbit. Second, I never learned anything about the arts through these projects. All I did was do some research and post it on a Google doc. Then the art kids apparently read what I said and made a sculpture out of it. I never got to see those sculptures(even though they said we did), so the whole mixing of fields is a straight up lie. The most I ever learned about art was when I visited the Art Museum in Philly with my youth group.

I'm also pretty sure the only reason we ever did this collaboration was for this video, in my 4 years at Central I've never heard of anything like this besides for this documentary. While it is important for our youth to become balanced individuals with knowledge in many areas, I think this video is utter rubbish and simply an attempt to convince parents and teachers that they are doing a good job, which may not necessarily be true. At Central, the art classes are mainly just a way for kids to be lazy instead of taking something that's actually challenging and useful. There are exceptions of course, kids who legitimately want to study art in college and there are classes like AP Art History and AP Studio Art that are respectable, but from my understanding most of them are really just the easy way out.

I wish that the interviewer would've questioned me individually, but that would never happen because I like to speak my mind and tell things as they are, instead they chose students who would say what the producers want to hear(not a rip on those kids, they're nice people, but they do what is appealing.) Just a little insight, I think the whole collab thing is nice on paper but in reality it's just a bunch of BS.

Thanks, and Edutopia, please don't silence me and delete this comment, I'd like to hear some responses.

Arts Integration Specialist

This is such an exciting

Was this helpful?
+1

This is such an exciting article! I know that many elementary schools are using arts integration and project-based learning because it fits so well with that age-group and curriculum. However, arts integration can be so rich and meaningful in high school! It can be a challenge for high school teachers to shift their mindset from a lecture-based classroom structure into an integrated project-based model. These teachers are such a great example of how this can be accomplished. I think the real needs for all teachers in using this method is in professional development and building a certain level of comfort with knowing how and which arts make the natural connections. EducationCloset.com offers online classes for both the classroom teachers and the arts teachers to help all teachers have the kind of success that these model high school teachers saw. Thanks for sharing that this CAN be done in high school!

see more see less

Mariko Nobori Managing Editor and Producer

follow this blogger
Twitter Facebook GPlus

Central York High School

  • Featured strategy:
    • Integrated Studies
  • Location:
    • York, Pennsylvania
  • Setting:
    • Suburban
  • Grades:
    • 9-12
  • Enrollment:
    • 1,700
  • Graduation rate:
    • 98%
  • Student achievement
    • More than 80% of Central York High School graduates enroll in higher education each year.