Arts education and arts integration are two different things.  I find that some people don’t quite understand this and therefore may feel unqualified or disinterested in learning about what they have to offer their students.  Here, I am setting out to clarify a few things.

Let’s get a couple of critical questions out of the way first:

Are arts education and arts integration two different things?  YES

Can either form take the place of another?   NO

And now to the nitty gritty…

Arts Education is where students learn the skills and practices of artists and musicians.  They learn how to play an instrument, techniques for painting, vocabulary that defines their movement or strategies to take a picture.   Students knowledge base in an artform as well as the historical aspect and appreciation of the arts is what is taught here.   Students are then given opportunities to explore, refine and use these skills in various art projects as they move through the artistic process.  When we have an education in the arts we are also learning skills beyond the ones that can be readily assessed: collaboration and independence, work ethic and perseverance, communication and self-reflection.  An education in the arts helps us to define ourselves and understand our culture.  It is an essential piece to the whole picture of becoming a lifelong learner.

Arts Integration is a concept of teaching where students utilize the arts to learn about, practice and embed an understanding of various concepts that may or may not be arts-related.  With arts integration, students learn with and through the arts.  For example, my students have gained quite a repertoire of math dances that have helped them to understand and remember math concepts such as area and perimeter, parallel and perpendicular lines and how to move on a coordinate grid.  We also listen to music daily and discuss related reading strategies such as visualization and the concept of beginning, middle and end.

These two methods of educating children are very different and one type needs the other.  Sure they could be taught independently of each other, but that would take away from the potential of a well-rounded arts education.  This is not to say that those only interested in the arts should practice both arts ed and int.  In fact, the arts are for everyone.  After all the arts are culture and we all need to be able to understand and process all that is around us.  Visit this post for more on learning with, through and about the arts.

Why this post?

I decided to write this post for a couple of reasons.  One is that many people simply don’t know the difference between arts education and integration.  The other is because in these times of so many budget cuts, where the arts tend to be their first to go, it is important to understand that arts integration SHOULD NOT and CANNOT replace arts education.  The only true formula it to have the arts taught for the sake of the art and to integrate it into other content areas so that students can deepen their knowledge, appreciation and understanding of both the art form and the other area that is taught.

I am a proponent of the ideal where both artsed and artsint are taught simultaneously.  The two need to be taught and should be taught together.  They naturally compliment each other and provide for the  most effective and long standing education we can give our students!

What are your thoughts?