For the arts to thrive in our schools we must consider how to make room for the arts in our classrooms. There are multiple ways do this. Here, we present three approaches to using the arts in a classroom environment.
- One approach focuses on how to set up designated studio spaces for art-making. This approach uses the arts for creative exploration and expression. We can also call this a stand-alone arts practice where the curriculum is learning the language of the art form. In this approach students develop and refine specific art-making skills.
- The second approach, arts-integration, uses the arts throughout the curriculum as one of many ways for students to make meaning out of their learning experiences. Art skills are developed alongside their investigations of core content.
- Finally, an art historical approach uses high-quality reproductions of art as primary source documents to contextualize economic, political, social, historical, and cultural conditions and times. This research approach creates an opening for the arts to supplement your content.
All of these practices are valuable and not mutually exclusive. Whichever method you choose to use, we suggest you take stock of where you are at in your own teaching practice. Ask yourself, "What do my students need to be successful learners? How can the arts strengthen their learning experiences?" Be honest about how you will bring the arts into your classroom. After determining where you are at in your own practice, take the appropriate next steps to build on your expertise. In this chapter, we have listed suggestive steps for going forward.
Art specialist Kitty Conde, art historian Amy Mooney, theater educator Karen Erickson, research associate Lois Hetland, and arts-integration expert Jackie Murphy have contributed to our understanding of a well-thought-out arts practice in the classroom. Here we outline best practice behaviors that lay a foundation for successfully implementing any arts program.