For the past two months, the Upper Darby School District has been implementing an Arts Integration model of teaching. Just by virtue of the fact that there are ten elementary schools in the District, with this being a new model, we at the UDPC would expect that a wide range of educational experiences are being offered to students.

We also know that as parents, even under the best of circumstances, we may question our children about their learning experiences in the classroom and be left with only a vague idea of what is really happening. These days, while parents might be tempted to assume the worst, in truth, there are some really interesting things happening in the District, and we are starting to hear some of these stories.

For example, one first-grade student at Hillcrest recently explained that in his art class, he had learned about an artist who used blocks of colors in his designs. Although the student didn’t remember the artist’s name, he did know that he made an art project with his class using paper and glue; the only rule was that the blocks of colors were not supposed to overlap. A few days later, this student’s parent was talking to the art teacher about the project. The teacher said that the artist, Piet Mondrian, had rules about colors not touching, and this was exemplified in a series of his compositions completed in the early 20th century. The teacher chose Mondrian as part of the Arts Integration model to co-teach a social studies lesson on understanding “why rules are important”, while also teaching the children about art composition.

In another example, a 5th grade student shared with her mother that she was learning about a technique called cut-paper silhouetting in art class.  The art teacher was teaching them about the medium and techniques used by the contemporary African American artist Kara Walker to talk about racial stereotyping and slavery.  When the mother spoke with the art teacher, she learned that the simplified use of silhouettes to depict African Americans was an ironic commentary on Walker’s part on how slavery stripped African Americans of their unique qualities and of their humanity.  This lesson was integrated into a social studies lesson on the impact on our society of slavery.

While the UDPC has expressed concerns about whether the Arts Integration model is currently being implemented with integrity, we recognize through these examples the initiative and creativity of some amazing teachers who are figuring it out and making it happen. Arts Integration can create truly wonderful learning opportunities for our children, and the UDPC encourages teachers to continue to strive toward excellence.

We want to hear from you

Over the next few weeks, please take some time to talk to your children about what they are doing in their arts-related classes. Some ideas for questions include:

  • Do you like having two teachers in your classroom?
  • Do your teachers work together in the classroom?  If so, in what ways?
  • How are your arts-related classes different this year?
  • Does art, music, or physical education help you learn about your social studies or science lesson? Conversely, does having art, music, or physical education taught as part of a social studies or science lesson make you feel any different about your special subjects, either in a good way or bad way?

If you are able, we also encourage you talk to your children’s art, music, and physical education teachers, and ask if and how they are implementing Arts Integration lessons.

Based on what you learn, do you feel your child is getting more this year from his or her arts, music, and physical education courses, or less, and why? Can your children make the connections between their art, music, or physical education lessons and the curriculum concepts they are supposed to be conveying?

We at the UDPC would like to hear what you and your children think about the new Arts Integration model. You can post your comments below, using an anonymous user name. Be sure to include the school that your child attends and his/her grade so that we can capture what is happening at each school in the District. Do not include your child’s name or the names of any teachers. If you are not comfortable posting publicly, please feel free to email us at, where your confidentiality will be protected. Please note that all comments posted below or emailed to UDPC may be shared with District administration. Lastly, please note that all comments are moderated, and any offensive posts will be removed.

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4 Responses to Arts Integration Comes to UDSD–Feedback Wanted

  1. I’m not a parent, but from talking to parents and the students who I work with from UDSD, I think the biggest concerns right now are the following:
    (1) The time issue – 30 minutes of the arts per day is just not enough, and have there been implementations of ideas to actually teach more effectively in test prep to actually see a difference in scores? If not, then is it really worth it.
    (2) The training issue – UDSD administration provided lesson plans for arts integration just THREE DAYS before the start of school, and even in the most unsuccessful school districts who have tried arts integration, there was some level of training involved. I’ve been trying for many weeks to bridge a relationship between UDSD and the Kennedy Center for the Arts, who developed the arts integration approach, as well as numerous arts specialists who have offered their time and energy to properly train the teachers in the approach. So far I have seen no results.

    I guess my final concern is the idea that right before arts integration was officially implemented and arts funding was restored, school board president Maureen Carey expressed to a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer the plan to have the arts teachers train the regular teachers how to do their jobs, so next year, when we have another budget crisis, the school board and administration don’t need to “stress” about keeping the arts teachers on staff. I think this is disrespectful to all the community members who have worked so hard for the funding we’ve gotten so far and who are completely committed to continuing that movement in the future.

    I don’t trust this idea for those reasons, but I am very happy for the existence of the Upper Darby Parent Coalition to keep these dialogues going with the community!

  2. Laurie says:

    Thank you for your comments, and we appreciate your support! We share the community’s concerns about Arts Integration being implemented with integrity. We also support a curriculum whereby the arts-related subjects and physical education are fully maintained as standalone classes. This particular blog was written for the purposes of sharing with parents an idea of what a well developed AI lesson might look like, and to encourage them to start dialogues with their children and teachers so we can begin to gather more information about what is actually happening across the District.

  3. Christiane W Parsons says:

    I asked my children ( 11 year old 5th grader and a 8 year old second grader) who attend Primos Elementary School what it was like having two teacher’s for certain classes. My 11 y/o 5th grader said that it’s only once a week (that she has been in class, since she also does gifted glass and violin) that she’s seen it where they have had two teachers at the same time. I’m guessing for one day a week it does not make much of a difference since if lesson between art and social studies are integrated it’s very little and not noticible to the students. My 8 y/o 2nd grader has more or less said the same thing. He has not noticed a difference except that they no longer have his term “real art” though he does like his art teacher. It also seems library is no longer of importance given the kids can no longer check our books and therefore have little time to actually read the books. I find this to be a huge mistake by the School District. Yes we have local libraries but they can not and should not have to take up the slack of the local school district and their unwillingness to provide the education these children need. These children need Math, Science, English as well as Library, Music, Art and Physical Education. It does not have to be one or the other unless that is what the district wants, and it seems it is.

  4. kreski383 says:

    When politicians talk about budget shortfalls, first they dig their hands into other people’s pockets, next they cut school programs. this has been the formula since ancient times. just like the days of roman rule.

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