Connected to everything else: Practical arts integration

By Morgan Appel, director of UC San Diego Extension's Education Department

As this series on the arts in education draws to a close, we can argue that we have made a compelling, albeit brief, case for meaningful inclusion of the arts in P-12 curriculum. As we transition dutifully from the relative austerity of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its related policies and practices to a more hopeful and holistic experience under the auspices of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), one may have cause to wonder how we may incorporate the arts as described above. In this penultimate edition, we offer a few broad suggestions. The closing post will provide a number of standards-based resources and specific strategies aligned with CCSS available to teachers at little or no cost.

General strategies to promote arts integration include:

  • Using the dramatic arts as a vehicle to teach other disciplines—in a holistic, long-term way (mathematics and building theater sets)

  • Recreational arts can be used in the same way (building a skateboard ramp, for example)

  • Using graphic organizers, pictures and murals to build vocabulary, capacity for analytical writing and storytelling

  • Tapping into students’ arts interests and use them to encourage depth and complexity within and across disciplines (comparing corridos, rap music, opera, etc.)

  • Having students study history and geography through the arts, creating multimedia representations of significant events using multiple perspectives (such as analyzing the life of an historical figure using music, visual representations and speeches)

  • Studying art phenomena during a particular period of history, explaining how the arts depict the time

  • Applying scientific concepts (such as the study of light and light waves, looking for patterns and outliers, prediction) to an artistic composition

Other suggestions include:

  • Showing how math, art and science explore the ‘true nature’ of the world around us. Exploring works of art help students understand and explain whether things are what they seem

  • Investigating works of art from two sides of a conflict—how is the world depicted by each side using music, visual, dramatic arts? How are the arts used to tell stories and present causes (WWII propaganda is particularly telling)

  • Having students design a low-cost, eco-friendly (but saleable) car, including marketing media (commercials, print ads, etc.)

  • Using teaching artists to help teach across the curriculum using the arts (many have their own equipment)

In our final installment of this series, we will offer a fairly comprehensive listing of resources that may be accessed locally (San Diego and Southern California) and globally online. We will also explore arts integration as part of a differentiated experience and in the formulation of a Personalized Learning Environment for learners across the abilities spectrum.

For any questions about this article or our series on the arts in education, please contact Morgan Appel directly at

Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.

What's your story?

Share your accomplishments, advice, and goals for a chance to be featured.