How to Get Started With Arts-Integration

Five recommendations from the nation’s best and brightest arts education leaders.

By Kathi R. Levin
October 2015, Volume 39, Issue 2

What practical approaches can principals and teacher leaders use to successfully integrate the arts into their elementary schools? These recommendations are the result of interviews with 32 national arts education leaders, each with 20 years of experience in arts education, including principals, superintendents, researchers, teaching artists, leaders in performing arts centers, education associations, advocacy coalitions, and funding agencies:

  1. Create a school culture and environment of support that values the arts, sets goals for building arts programs, and monitors progress. Consider appointing an arts leadership committee that includes individuals from within the school as well as from the community, including parents and community cultural leaders.
  2. Ensure access to resources for building quality arts education programs; do not accept the premise that the arts will be the first cut from the curriculum or budget. The value of school district leaders who support the arts is unquestionable. It is often the belief in the arts among individual school leaders that ensures programs are not only able to survive, but to grow over time. While some schools have reduced access to the arts, many schools and districts have expanded arts programs and have included the arts in school turnaround strategies.
  3. Provide shared professional development experiences for classroom teachers, arts educators, and teaching artists. Support integrating the arts into the identity and culture of the school through standards-based art integration within the curriculum and authentic arts assessment, ongoing collaboration, and a shared vision and investment in the school arts program. Consider the arts educators as the school’s chief creative officers, encouraging them to identify ways to infuse their work throughout the school.
  4. Connect the arts to overall educational goals by embedding arts learning throughout the curriculum. Include art integration with STEM/STEAM initiatives and other schoolwide efforts to support creativity and innovation among teachers and students.
  5. Develop content-rich partnerships with community cultural organizations. Expand resources and build communitywide understanding of, and support for, school arts programs.

Kathi R. Levin is a project consultant for the National Art Education Association.

Adapted from “Lessons Learned,” in the September/October 2015 issue of Champion Creatively Alive Children, a special arts-themed supplement to Principal magazine sponsored by Crayola. Visit the latest Principal magazine arts supplement page to read more.

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