George Lucas Educational Foundation

Art Works: Integrating Creativity in the Curriculum

At Boston Arts Academy, high student achievement is driven by infusing the rigorous college-prep program with visual arts, dance, theater and music. Read the article.
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Art Works: Integrating Creativity in the Curriculum (Transcript)

Narrator: Like many of his classmates at the Boston Arts Academy, Marvin Balan is a gifted musician. Ironically his passion for music grew out of his dread of math class.

Marvin Balan: I was in sixth grade and a couple friends of mine, they was like "Oh, guess what? I get to miss math class for music." And I'm like "Really?" So, and so I was like "So who's the music teacher again?"

And so I will go up to him like wondering if I could participate in the band, and in my head I'm just like so I can get out of math class. The funny thing is I love math nowadays.

Narrator: More than one third of incoming freshmen test at least two years below grade level, but as seniors, 97 percent of them graduate and go on to college.

Teacher: Up, push through.

George Simpson: The intention behind this school is to take their main passion and to say okay, now you've got this.

We'll grow this with you. We'll allow you to use this, but we still want you to do the literacy, the numeracy, the science, the humanities, all of those other things.

Marvin Balan: There's a number of experiments that was conducted in which they found that the temporal lobe, which is the side of the brain right here is responsible for processing the music.

Charnay Paris: I wouldn't say that my dance is separate from my academics.

I guess it makes everything, it makes the whole high school experience easier because you're doing-- you're learning and you're also doing what you love.

Narrator: Only 25 percent of those who try out pass the artistic audition.

Narrator: Once accepted, they choose a major: visual arts, theater, music or dance and spend the next four years honing their skills for several hours each day on top of the school's rigorous academic program.

Anne Clark: We're going to continue our South Africa unity today by-

I think our school works because for at least half the day students feel successful.

If a student is struggling in my academic class, I can go down the hall to his or her arts block and see them being that genius. So the trick is to use that artistic passion and power to get them through their academics.

George Simpson: One of the values, the main values that I see in music for all of our students are some of the life skills that it teaches you.

I mean you can't be a good musician without practice, without discipline, without responsibility, without dedication, without all of those things.

Apollo Payton: I really just walked in with my eyes closed hoping that I was going to meet you know some teachers that would really just-

Help me to grow as a person, as a leader, and as a musician. Luckily for me I found that in both aspects of my academics and my music classes.

Teacher: Think slowing down and really be thoughtful about what note you're going to do.

Apollo Payton: Okay.

Teacher: Because you only have to do like half-steps.

Anne Clark: Art is important to keep students engaged, number one, but arts for artistic students is a- way of being. Is a way of thinking. And art isn't, instead of math, art is math. If you look at for example what our visual artists are doing with perspective and design that is math.

Narrator: No matter what major they pursue, students are held to high standards here in arts and academics.

Barrington Edwards: The idea is good so you want to make sure that you don’t lose momentum because you only have-

I think too many people make the standards lower for students who actually need higher standards. They need more support to get to those higher standards, but they need higher standards because the world keeps making the standard higher.

The jobs that they need in order to pay their bills require higher standards evermore increasingly, and these students really need to be challenged. And even in their personal development they need higher standards and they need to internalize the principle of rigor.

George Simpson: A little bit- challenge yourselves a little bit quicker. One and two and uh-uh-uh.

We do music that oftentimes is more advanced than what the students are capable of doing and that's on purpose. We do that so that- the kids can see that with hard work, with dedication, with all of those adjectives that you use- that they can go, they can succeed, and they can create excellence.

That was great. You notice how easy it was to come in when you do that? Oh, beautiful. Mmm.

Narrator: In order to graduate, students must write a grant proposal for their senior portfolio project that ties together their artistic passion with a community service.

Anne Clark: They propose some artistic community service project and they must present it-

The real way which is by putting together a budget, putting together a presentation- Putting together a visual and selling it to funders. And the point of that is that that's a way to assess and to understand real knowledge and those skills are just as important as anything that you would- assess through a bubble.

Charnay Paris: I will create art in the future that is a representation of me, myculture, my political views and everything that has to do with what I think about life.

Anne Clark: A big part of our thesis for why this school works is art is a power in society and students who find their power as artists, go on to be powerful members of society.

Anne Clark: If you want to get something done in the world you need to be able to not only have something to say but have a way to say it and make sure that you're heard.

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producer

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Karen Sutherland

Assistant Editor

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Camera Crew

  • Intersection Associates
  • John McGannon
  • Susu Wing


  • Kris Welch

Original Music

  • Ed Bogas

Additional Footage Courtesy of

  • Daniela Coleman
  • Phyllis Bretholtz

Comments (7) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Becky Bocker's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great video..I am passing this along to my art ed adviser at Tyler School of Art, Dr. Joanna Moore. I just graduated,summa cum laude with a BFA and Art ed Certification and now I'm looking for a high school art position in Northeast Pa.
This video has inspired me very much and reafirmed that what I am doing is so important.
Thank you.

Patricia Gillespie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This was a wonderful video! It gave such voice to the importance of meeting kids' social and emotional needs in the classroom and the success that can come when they are incorporated into the curriculum and school atmosphere.

I retired in 2005 after teaching thirty years in a public school setting. I spent roughly a third of that time in special education, a third in a mixed ability classroom and a third teaching in a gifted and talented program. Yet, the one theme that was ever present on my mind in all of those settings was the importance of meeting kids' social and emotional needs. Therefore, when I retired I decided to work on my PhD in Education with a cognate in meeting students' social and emotional needs in the classroom. This video does a great job of sharing one way in which that can happen!

Crystal's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am currently a student in college studying to be an elementary teacher. I am currently in my 9th year of band and playing an instrument, and have done other extracurriculars in the past such as dance, theater and sports. I enjoyed this video very much. I wish that my state board would watch this video because over the past couple of years, there has been a huge controversy on whether or not to keep music and the arts in schools in our state. This makes me so mad because it has been proven over and over again, that music and other extracurriculars is a vital part in a student's education, and this video proves it once again. Whether they keep these classes in our schools are not, I know that I will incorporate these techniques in my own classroom because I have experienced how much music can do for a person, especially academcially.

Alan McLaughlin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Yes it is important. Do not give up it will happen. Good teachers are like gold

Stephanie Hoaglund's picture
Stephanie Hoaglund
Digital & Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Speaker

I love finding out about other innovative ways to engage and educate students.

MisterLoftcraft - 31775's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have recently have been to a sculpture exhibition and saw the work of Russell Solomon. We need to educate kids to be creative but at the same time we need to educate them to love the beautiful and art. People today don't care about art at all. They think it's something that rich people do.

nnnjjjbbb - 626611's picture

Imagine, if these kids could learn from the Interdisciplinary perspective. This would be based on the interrelationship between the master of the Fine Arts, and the master of at least one other discipline, for example Athletics. This would be ( renaissance ) genius!

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