Monthly Mentor

Heidi O'Donnell (December)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. December's monthly mentor is Heidi O'Donnell. Heidi is a high school art educator in mid-coast Maine with twenty years of experience and an insatiable appetite for learning new things. She holds a MEd in Built Environment Education, a BA in Visual Arts, a BS in Arts Education, and a minor in Art History, all from the University of Maine at Orono. Heidi is a recent graduate of the NAEA School for Art Leaders and serves as a National Art Honor Society Sponsor. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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July 26, 2017

Overcoming Challenges to Integrating Visual Art

From: Dr. R. Darden Bradshaw

Two of the biggest challenges noted for why teachers choose not to integrate the visual arts into their curriculum is time and fear. Both of these barriers can impact our classroom space. For most of us, time is a key factor in our lives-both inside of the classroom and outside. It is a finite resource. Perhaps you, like me, rail against the inevitability of its passage and the fact that there never seems to be enough time!  Sure that is true but as a wise gentleman once said, “there is time enough!” 

In my role as an arts integration specialist, when I would propose collaboration I often heard teachers say that they always felt pressed for time. To them, taking one or two valuable class periods to “play around with art integration” would mean one or two less days for them to “cover” their content. Yet in my experience, finding ways to integrate the arts makes learning exciting and engaging-both for the student and teacher; this inevitably means more time! I, like most educators, have seen that when learners are engaged they learn the concepts more deeply and are able to transfer that knowledge to other contexts; for most educators, the worry about having enough time to ‘cover’ one’s content becomes moot

Fear is another major challenge I’ve encountered in arts integration. While it shows up in many ways, today I am going to focus on fear that stems from a lack of knowledge. Because “substantive arts integration” requires deep investigation into varying content or disciplinary areas, sometimes a fear of not knowing can stop us from moving forward. Embracing the collaborative nature of art integration allows us to share and actually multiply our knowledgebase. Rather than feeling isolated and responsible for everything, art integration allows us to work collaboratively, becoming life-long learners alongside our students. For instance, I recall a math educator sharing her knowledge of geometry while learning amazing strategies for integrating dance and movement into her classroom when she worked with my colleague Rick Wamer, at Arts Integration Solutions in Tucson, AZ. Rick, a talented teaching artist and theatrical mime who holds an MFA in Theater, brought his knowledge of the art form of dance to the table. And the teacher, brought her expertise in math. As the two educators talked about students’ challenges in understanding planar geometry, they collaboratively arrived at an engaging lesson that taught graphing and the x-y-z coordinate planes, moving beyond the two dimensions to three, through physical movement.  

Picture1Rick Wamer (L) working with Rover Elementary School students to embody their learning through arts integration.

Watching children using their bodies to demonstrate various plots of x, y, and z coordinates was thrilling.  And, more importantly, for those learners who previously struggled to comprehend the concept when it was taught only on paper, the embodiment of learning stayed with them and empowered them! By stepping outside her comfort zone and asking another to share their expertise, this teacher modeled that when we set aside our fear and work collaboratively with others the benefits far outweigh the risk!

-RDB

References
Marshall, J. M. (2006). Substantive art integration = Exemplary art education.  The Journal of Art Education, 59(6), 17-24.

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