Arts Integration

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Part four in a five-part series of blog posts from Academic Dean Rebecca Redlon discussing the New Academic Vision at The Maine Girls’ Academy.

Mercy Matters: Arts Integration

Two weeks ago, I took a stroll across the yard to the art studio. The weather was unsettled — sunny in one moment, cloudy the next — and a sneaky breeze dogged my path, grabbing at hem and hair alike. Stepping through the door to the studio was like entering an alternate plane. The air was warm with chatter, the scent of spiced tea, and French music.

French music? I paused for a moment to get my bearings. Looking around, I realized that not only were there many more students than I expected to see, but there was an extra teacher as well. I had just walked into a class integrating art and French. It took me a moment to digest all that was going on. One group of students was working on posters, laying on color or stenciling French text; a few students were engaged in research with the help of Ms. Schmir; still other students were seeking Ms. Scribner’s advice on perspective and color.  

Arts integration is more than adding an art component to a project; you can’t just ask students to make a poster related to their research project and call that “arts integration.” True integration only happens when a particular art standard is taught by the arts instructor in conjunction with the content area material and in collaboration with the content area teacher. In this instance, students had direct historical instruction on the development of posters in France and on the use of color and lettering. This instruction happened for these particular MGA students prior to my visit, and most of them were engaged in the actual “making” portion of the process. An outsider might have taken a peek into the studio on the day I visited and seen controlled chaos.  Here is what I saw:

Curiosity. Creativity. Persistence. Openness. Flexibility. Engagement. Responsibility.

We want our students to exercise these habits of mind in their everyday classes, but it doesn’t happen naturally during each lesson in our core courses. The arts, however, demand that students utilize such habits in every meeting. To integrate the arts into content-area classrooms, therefore, boosts a student’s access to her habits of mind, which in turn helps her cultivate a growth mindset.  

Furthermore, the recent growth of education neuroscience as a field is bringing to light just how important the arts are for brain development. The arts aid in retention, in creating new neural pathways through novel experiences, and in increasing plasticity and connectivity. Consequently, integrating arts can make content more accessible for students, enhance students’ self-expression,  help students make sense of abstract concepts, and stimulate higher-level thinking.

The arts are not just “fun,” but are an integral part of the student experience in terms of learning and retaining content and in building critical problem solving skills. We recognize the inherent value of arts integration, and MGA faculty is committed to offering more integrated learning opportunities for our students.

by Rebecca Redlon, Academic Dean

Past posts in this series:

Upcoming posts:

Learn more and experience Mercy Matters for yourself by visiting the school or scheduling a shadow day. Contact us today.