Integrate the Arts, Deepen the Learning

Critical thinking, risk taking, and collaboration -- along with academics and discipline -- are just some of the areas where Bates Middle School educators report big improvements since integrating the arts across all subject areas.

Critical thinking, risk taking, and collaboration -- along with academics and discipline -- are just some of the areas where Bates Middle School educators report big improvements since integrating the arts across all subject areas.

Release Date: 8/29/12

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Integrate the Arts, Deepen the Learning (Transcript)

John: We’ve got to find a way to reach all kids, every kid, no matter what. And the arts do that. They give us ways to engage kids, to get them involved, to have them be part of what we want them to be a part of, which is learning the curriculum.

Diane: I got here during the summer and I had 18 letters of resignation on my desk from teachers out of 45. That was really scary. And then the discipline on the first day was shocking. I'd never seen kids that disengaged before.

Diane: After really fighting hard to stabilize Bates Middle School for the first three years it became obvious that we needed a whole school reform effort.

Pat: Because we are an arts integration school every teacher is expected to use arts integration in their classrooms in some shape or form in every content area.

Pat: The idea behind arts integration is that you learn the content area through the art so it sort of opens a new door to understanding.

John: One of the things that the arts do is they provide different strategies and different skills that go across all curriculum: collaboration, problem-solving skills. You have to figure out what will work? And you have to work through it. And sometimes you fail and you gain from failure. I mean that's the best thing about the arts. You don't have to be perfect all the time. We need to teach kids that you learn through failure. Take that risk. You take a risk, you're successful, that's a life-long skill for kids.

Stacey: We're going to start off with some artful thinking. I'm going to show you another image from the Ars Ad Astra project, the art gallery that went to the Mir Space Station.

Pat: Artful thinking is an approach to teaching visual arts through a series of routines and each routine has a set of questions that the teacher asks about a piece of art and they're designed around critical thinking skills. What they're doing is showing a piece of art and asking kids to look at it carefully and to make some assumptions about it.

Stacey: This will be a routine for imagining and observing. Please take a moment to look at the painting. Choose beginning, middle, or end. If this artwork is in the beginning of the story what might happen next? And if this artwork is at the end of the story, what was the story about?

Student: I chose the beginning. I said "An international space corporation wanted to send a new kind of space probe to each planet of our solar system to study life. And the space probes hold a new kind of animal scientifically made.”

Stacey: Typically they spend ten seconds looking at a piece. This encourages them to really observe every portion of that painting or artwork, and then it allows their thinking to be visible.

Pat: We ask ourselves where are the kids struggling? Uhm.. and we want to then target that standard because we want to approach it through art integration to find another way to reach them.

Stacey: Maddie, read the learning goal for us nice and loud.

Maddie: I will understand and demonstrate rotation and revolution by choreographing a dance.

Stacey: Thank you very much. Today you kids are dancing.

Stacey: Today you kids are dancing.

Stacey: I wanted my kids to understand rotation and revolution. Uh.. they frequently mix them up.

Stacey: You will choose a movement from your choreography today and you will tell me how your movement represents rotation or revolution.

Stacey: So I decided to make two dance groups.

Caleb: If I was doing the learning out of a textbook, it wouldn't stick with me like because I'm a visual learner. I'm an active learner, so by doing exciting things, creative things it sparks my interest so then my mind, it keeps on my mind oh remember when you did this? Remember when you did that? When we have our unit test then I can know the characteristics of the different planets.

Stacey: These are all the movements I want to see included in your choreography. I'm going to give you two okay?

Student: Okay.

Student: Alec is the sun and like you get in the middle and we all get in a circle at the very beginning.

Student: Everyone who is an expert of each planet, we each go around at however fast the planet goes.

Student: Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!

Pat: We’ve seen a huge difference in the kinds of questions that- that kids are answering and the kinds of questions teachers are asking because when they use the art to ask these critical thinking questions, the kids are- are using skills that they didn't know they had.

Diane: Over the last five years we've made significant gains in all of our student groups. For instance, our English language learners have increased their student achievement in math and in reading by almost 30 percent. Our Special Ed scores are jumping higher than we could have even hoped, and we're developing a body of research data that show that arts integration can help struggling students learn those standards.

John: To see parents that never came into a school to all of a sudden be there, to come in and say "Thank you, my son is engaged where he never was before.”

John: I saw what it did for kids. And it's changed my career. I mean, they say arts are transformative. It transformed me.


  • Director: Zachary Fink
  • Producer: Mariko Nobori
  • Editor: Daniel Jarvis
  • Associate Producer: Douglas Keely
  • Camera: Zachary Fink
  • Audio: Douglas Keely
  • Graphic Design: Maili Holiman
  • Digital Media Curator: Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Executive Producer: David Markus

© 2012 | The George Lucas Educational Foundation | All rights reserved.

© 2012 | The George Lucas Educational Foundation | All Rights Reserved

Comments (4)

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Kindergarten teacher from Los Angeles, CA

This is great to see. It

Was this helpful?

This is great to see. It also works well with kindergarteners. We recently completed a project that involved technology, music, acting to retell a story...

Chinese Langauge Teacher from Southern California, CA

It is a great encouragement

Was this helpful?

It is a great encouragement for me to watch how the kids learn. Thank you for bring back the important of "getting from doing" process in the classroom,. Very inspiring.

School Headmaster at Lifesong School for Orphans in Zambia

What a great way of engaging

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What a great way of engaging students in learning! Keep it up. My school will find a way of emulating you.

Media Teacher

Bravo, Bates Middle School!

Was this helpful?

I often find myself discouraged by the lack of value for the arts where I teach. They don't recognize the deeper learning that happens in these kinds of environments. The educators shown here "get it"! That is exciting!

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