As an elementary art teacher (in my former life), my first introduction to
the idea of curriculum integration came when a 3rd grade classroom teacher
brought her students into my room one day and said "The kids are studying
North American Indians in Social Studies, could you have them make tee-pees
or something Indian?" I still remember standing there with my mouth open
in a daze and trying to explain to this teacher that I already had a lesson
planned for her students. But, that we could meet and perhaps plan
something for later in the year or even next year. We did meet later and
had an interesting exchange in which I shared with her my program goals.
She said she had no idea that I actually had an "art" curriculum with
subject matter and skills to teach. Her reaction still rings in my
ears.....(please make it go away ;^) Well, to make this story short, we
did find some common ground...and I did find ways to link my curriculum
with what was happening in other classrooms in the school.
One thing I learned during those years is that it was easy to find ways to
link various curriculum areas...BUT,that sometimes these links are
artificial and forced. When the links are "natural" and lend themselves to
genuine cross-disciplinary study I think that integration WORKS. When they
are not, I fear that student learning/understanding of the subject matter
involved will be shallow (at best) and that misconceptions about the
disciplines (and cultures) involved will be taught (and thus become facts
in the students' minds).
As an EXAMPLE of what I mean by "shallow understanding/misconceptions being
taught," I've heard (but not seen) of classroom teachers who have kids make
globes out of paper mache and then paint them showing all seven continents
(there are still seven, right?) and who have kids color in maps of the US.
While I'm not against these "visual learning" activities, I do have
problems when they are said to be "art" lessons or activities. (Notice how
I'm staying away from pumpkins here, Lynn ;^) As I've said many times in
my elem. methods class for classroom teachers, "Just because kids are
working with art materials, doesn't mean they're "doing art." (...Before
someone attempts to legitimize these activities, let me say that I feel
that "world making" and "map making" can be turned into exciting "art"
lessons...but, these "project" ideas are usually not presented as such.)
As an example of an area where natural links exist, the long historical
relationship between artists and the environment (i.e., art and ecology)
lends itself to a wealth of opportunities for curriculum integration and
cross-disciplinary study. Also, if we include design (I'm thinking here of
"design as creative problem-solving" although "design as elements and
principles" also applies) within the realm of the art/school curriculum,
there are lots of opportunities for kids to explore some of our world's
problems and to come up with creative solutions that cross over
Kit's comment here rings a bell (there's that damm ringing again 8^) where
she talked about education being about confronting, understanding and
engaging the world in which we live. I would like to add its also about
exploring, playing with, enjoying, and re-creating our world(s)--both inter
and outer worlds. In this way, I agree that we need to view art, science
(etc.,) as ways of studying (or inquiring about) ourselves and our
world(s). I think it was Elbert Hubbard who said, "Art is not a thing: it
is a way."
There is lots more to say, but let me close with a more recent incident in
my professional life where curricular integration has become an issue. Our
College of Education is currently attempting to reorganize the elementary
education curriculum. To keep this short, The administrators/faculty
pushing for this "reform" presented us (in the College of Fine Arts) with a
model in which the art methods and music methods classes would be combined
and reduced from 7 hrs credit to 2 hrs credit. We have been trying to
avoid this move (for a number of reasons...none of which involve "simply
justifying our existence.") for over a year now. The interesting thing is
that when they brought all the methods instructors together (art, music,
pe, science, language arts, social studies, etc.,) for the first time to
discuss this matter, I found I had more in common with the science, social
studies and language arts instructors (in terms of curriculum content and
goals) than I did with music. Go figure?
My point here being (once again) where the links seem natural, my feeling
is that integration is GOOD. Where the links are forced, integration is
well, not so good.
With that it's time to put my toys away and go to bed.
Have a nice weekend. Go Gators!
CRAIG ROLAND. Associate Professor-Art Education.
Department of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville Florida.
32611-5801. (352) 392-9165 - Art Ed Office (352) 392-8453 - Fax
visit my homepage (http://grove.ufl.edu/~rolandc/homepage.html) and
@rt room (http://grove.ufl.edu/~u4950aaa/@rt_room/@rtroom_home.html).