ArtsEd Vs ArtsInt

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?


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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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  1. Musikmarc says:

    Thank you Elizabeth! In these dark times of budget cuts, it is reassuring to know there are people out there that still “get it” and understand! Wish my administration would read your blog!

  2. Jennifer Rice says:

    I absolutely agree that you cannot go without art education and only use art integration. There needs to be prior knowledge and a base for the students to work with built by art education in order for them to be able to utilize art integration to its greatest benefit. Students need the education of working with and learning the foundation of the arts.

  3. Tori says:

    When we took time last night to watch the webinar around TRUE art integration coupled with my experiences over the last six months (AI PLC, art retreat and exposure to AI in general) one very strong thought stuck in my head. In order for me to be successful in beginning to truly integrate the arts into my teaching, I need to ask for PD in this area. The webinar advised educators to not only ask for PD in the Arts but to demand for it! Already learning about how successful AI can be, I as a “non-creative person” need that development in Art Education! Let’s see what the future holds.

  4. Laurel says:

    I feel as though I am developing a better understanding of the differences between arts integration and art education. While I have often provided young children with a variety of art experiences as a way of exploring content, I have not been making the connections to the specific art skills taught in the standards. I now realize how making these connections can provide students with a richer learning experience.

  5. Mary Linda Krikorian says:

    Hear! Hear! I wholeheartedly agree with y’all!!
    Even after all these years, Music seems like an afterthought in the eyes of the Administration. However, I consider myself truly blessed as a Music teacher to still be standing strong next to all of the other amazing Music teachers I work with, and have had the pleasure of knowing in the many cities I have worked.

    It never ceases to annoy me when the response I get (from those who just don’t know any better) is “Aawww! K-4…Music? You must have so mush fun.” True. I have fun, but it’s hard work. I’d love to be able to switch places with some of these folks just for a day. Maybe then we would ALL have a better appreciation for each other.

    • I agree. Whenever I drop my kids off at any class, I try not to say, “Have fun,” because I know what connotation that has. We all work so hard! And everyone has such purpose in these students’ lives and education. No one should forget or devalue this.

      As far as this article, we need to always be aware that arts ed and arts int are separate (but related) ideas and both are needed for our kids!

  6. Emily Little says:

    Elizabeth, I love your statement:

    “After all the arts are culture and we all need to be able to understand and process all that is around us.”

    Art is everywhere, and our students need to learn how to interpret it. In Language Arts I try to help my students “read” not just texts, but graphs, photographs, paintings, political cartoons, film clips, advertisements, etc. While some students see details very easily, others need clear, direct instruction in how to see and analyze the information.

    I hope this course will give me more tools to help my students “read” all that is around them. 🙂

  7. Elissa Bellerose says:

    I’m always so saddened when I hear of yet another budget cut and the arts are the ones effected. Children NEED arts – they need that creativity. So much is expected of them earlier and earlier in life, they need that time to be creative and have fun – to be kids!

  8. Becky says:

    I totally agree that arts integration and arts education should be taught together. Just like you would have a classroom teacher and a specialist, such as the music, teacher, teaching a child, each would have something different to offer towards the child’s learning. One might capitalize on the other’s teaching. For example, one might be teaching fractions in math, while the other teaching quarter notes in music. Making connections for children through teaching both allows their learning to grow.

  9. MaryLinda Krikorian says:

    Last summer after your Retreat, I made a poster with B M E (beginning, middle and end) explaining the letters’ representation. It has been beneficial to my teaching the kids different stories….having them rewrite the ends of the stories and then having them act the stories out in a play.
    BME has been referred to over and over in the process of these projects.
    Thanks Elizabeth!

  10. Jennifer Daileanes says:

    I totally agree that art education courses should not be disappearing! Without learning the skills in art education classes from preschool on up, students will not have the skills to use the arts in conjunction with learning math, history, language arts, and so on.

  11. Holly Gray says:

    I agree Jennifer. In Liz’s article about “Learning with and through the Arts” she very aptly references that art is culture! This is so true and in today’s world, at least in our country, people are failing to invest in the cultures that brought us to this country and that which we have become in melding those rich and beautiful customs of story telling, dance, music, art and rituals that incorporate all of these art forms. When we teach each other about our pride in our own cultures, we share humanity on a gutteral level. We are therefore given the gift of seeing our connections and not opposing our diversity. The arts are essential to our human existence.

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