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 email@example.com, 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.