We are a network of individuals who have collectively worked under the auspices of the Chicago Teachers' Center at Northeastern Illinois University, an offshoot of its College of Education, to create tools for K-8th grade classroom teachers. Our specific group within the Chicago Teachers' Center is called Arts at the Center of Teaching and Learning. For the past 20 years this small but committed group of educators, artists, policymakers, evaluators, and administrators has carved out an approach for using the arts across the curriculum. Our model of arts-integration grew out of an early drop- out prevention program in the city of Chicago and morphed into an internationally recognized model for arts-integration replicated in Scotland and many school districts around the United States. The model 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.
The authors and reviewers of this curriculum represent a wide spectrum of educators committed to the arts. Lois Hetland, research associate at Harvard University's Project Zero, presents a lens for understanding student learning in the arts; Amy Mooney, Ph.D., art historian and professor, guides us through methods for looking at artwork; and Jackie Murphy, a playwright, former English teacher and arts-integration expert, contextualizes leading teachers through an arts-immersion experience. Perhaps the most important contributors to the writing process have been a group of teachers and teaching artists who have generously contributed their valuable teaching experiences over the course of four years to author lesson plans, photo essays, step-by-step art- making strategies, and more. They are the everyday practitioners who know if a strategy laid out in a curriculum will work. Most remarkable within this group is a visual arts teacher at Ravenswood Elementary School, Kitty Conde. Kitty has been a strong pillar of our practice for the past 17 years. Her insight and dedication to the field of arts education is at the foundation of this curriculum. She has collaborated with teaching artists, struggled through the challenges of arts-integration and shared her experience and expertise with other teachers. Her voice guides us through daily routines of bringing
the arts into the classroom. She thoughtfully narrates specific moments of learning in the classroom to help us understand the transfer of art and content knowledge. A natural consequence of this relationship is a strong emphasis on visual arts in this curriculum.
When we set out to write an arts curriculum for K-8th grade teachers, we were charged with the responsibility of creating a document that clearly laid out our approach to using the arts in a school setting. The curriculum had to provide teachers with multiple access points for introducing the arts into their core content teaching and empower them to develop a self-sufficient practice. As you read through the curriculum, you will see that there are four key themes throughout the book. First, we present components of an arts-integration practice based on our model of using the arts to enhance content teaching. When students are engaged in an arts-integrated practice, they have the opportunity to make meaning out of their learning experience. Art skills are developed alongside their investigations of core content. The backbone of our model is standards- based instruction that values the importance of state and national learning standards, which frame the learning experience. A third theme highlighted in the curriculum is the use of American art as a tool and primary source document for developing rich and meaningful lessons. The final theme focuses on the usefulness of arts as a stand-alone practice to engage students.
In our current climate of testing, extraneous curricula and overly demanding tasks can carry little weight in the classroom. Looking beyond the immediate conditions of today's testing culture to what is of value going forward, the arts can develop the whole, creative, and thinking child. There are many compelling reasons to bring the arts into the classroom. The arts create learning opportunities for different learning styles accessing Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory. Art-making mirrors the inquiry cycle and inherently fosters higher-order thinking skills. Children learning through the arts are asking questions, envisioning, making meaning, and problem solving. Lois Hetland says, "In whole child development, the kids are the product of teaching, it is not the artwork that the kids make: the work is a clue that tells us about the product, the kids."