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Use Art to Engage Visual Learners Across Subjects

Integrating artistic opportunities into math, science and language lessons can make your students’ creativity flow.

Spring is right around the corner and folks all over the country are looking forward to the milder weather. This is a great time of year to encourage students get creative and explore, among other things, all the wonderful colors and springtime sights through visual arts projects.

Art lessons and resources

Several art teachers were kind enough to share their favorite sources for art lessons and resources.

  • Jenn Palmer, an elementary art teacher in Moscow, PA says “I get a lot of resources and lesson plan ideas from the web sites we order our products from. It’s nice because they are giving you specific ideas based on the products you will be using and how to highlight certain materials. Crayola, Sax Arts & Crafts and Dick Blick are the ones that I’ve used the most. I also visit websites that other art teachers have created showcasing what projects they do by grade level, which is really nice.” Ms. Palmer also regularly reads Art Ally, a blog created “to support the strong belief that art is in us and all around us and it deserves a voice.”
  • Any educator looking for art resources should be sure to check out the National Art Education Association (NAEA), a professional organization serving K-12 art teachers. NAEA provides professional development and leadership opportunities, as well as a wealth of art education ideas and resources.
  • According to Julie Marx, art teacher at the Moscow Elementary Center and North Pocono Intermediate School in Pennsylvania, the International Youth Art Exchange is a terrific resource where “Schools can borrow an exhibit and submit students’ artwork into the annual contest. MEC has had several exhibits and our students have had their work sent to many countries.”
  • Don’t forget about local opportunities. Ms. Palmer said “Another great resource has been our Intermediate Unit [the regional educational service agency]. Last year they started a 3 session per school year program called the Fine Arts Academy. Throughout the year art and music teachers from districts in our unit come together to share ideas, collaborate on projects and learn ways to bring technology into our arts classrooms. It has been a wonderful source of information.”

Additional recommended lesson planning resources:

Interactive activities and resources to use with smart boards

Ms. Marx shared a variety of websites she likes to use with her Smart Board “to introduce a lesson, review or reinforce what we are working on.” The typical classroom configuration has a computer connected to the Smart Board and a projector, so whatever appears on the computer screen is projected on the Smart Board in front of the class.

For the following sites, Ms. Marx has students come to the Smart Board and answer questions or draw depending on the site. “For example, on the Pollock site students moved their fingers on the Smart Board to create lines. For other sites students come up and tap on the answer to questions.” I also use it to show them art work by various artists.

Keep in mind, a Smart Board does not have to be connected to the Internet to be a powerful teaching tool. For example, students can draw free-hand on a Smart Board with either their finger or the Smart Board pen.

Integrating arts across your curriculum

Years ago visual arts was treated as an elective in many schools. But today’s teachers realize art projects can be used across the curriculum to engage visual learners and reinforce math, science and language arts lessons. For example, consider having your students research their state facts for social studies, and then create a book with drawings or pictures of the state bird and flag. Or have your students illustrate an alternate ending for their favorite book in language arts. Study plants in science and then explore the work of Georgia O’Keefe.

Here are more websites with ideas on incorporating the arts in your core classes:

Funding for art programs

The unfortunate fact is that many art departments are seeing cuts in their funding as schools are forced to teach to standardized academic tests. But don’t despair—there are many grants and other funding opportunities to help you sustain your art department.

So as spring approaches, find new projects to inspire your students and get their creativity flowing. Students at all levels feel great pride in seeing their work displayed for all to see, and an added benefit is the burst of color and energy visual arts projects add to classrooms, hallways and entire school buildings.

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