Skip Navigation
We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, provide ads, analyze site traffic, and personalize content. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies.

Connecting to Curriculum with Arts Integration

Published: 12/07/2018

Integration helps diminish barriers some students experience in accessing curriculum

Arts integration has been an ini­tiative in Anne Arundel County Public Schools for nearly a de­cade. At Wiley H. Bates Mid­dle School, a performing and visual arts magnet school, we define arts integration as using art techniques to access Common Core standards and curriculum. By using arts integration les­sons, we are able to increase stu­dent engagement while decreasing student behavioral issues within the classroom. Using arts integration also creates a more global and holistic learn­ing environment for our stu­dents. Teachers make an effort to use arts integration to reach all student populations, includ­ing students with special needs, students learning English as a second language, and students with behavioral challenges.

Authors and Bates MS educators Lauren McClintock, Patricia Melesh, Laura Wixon, and Me­gan Zimmerman.

At Bates, there is a special­ized program called the Alter­nate Curriculum Class (ACC) for students with significant cognitive disabilities who re­ceive instruction from a modi­fied curriculum with intensive supports. The arts are frequent­ly integrated into these classes to successfully engage students in the learning process. Regard­less of a student’s ability, all students in this class have been able to access the curriculum through the use of our lessons.

For example, while students learned about the water cycle, they simultane­ously participated in a lesson fo­cusing on pup­petry. Students went on to cre­ate their own hand puppets, reflecting their knowledge of the wa­ter cycle stages. Students then created a script for each puppet that centered on the stage of the water cycle which their puppet represented.

This lesson not only rein­forced vocabulary and increased students’ understanding of both the water cycle and puppetry, but also allowed them to prac­tice fine motor skills, writing skills, and speaking and listen­ing skills.

Other examples of arts inte­gration within the ACC include lessons surrounding culinary arts using measurement and sequencing; poetry and visual art with the end product being a published book; a theatrical per­formance of a fractured fairy tale about pollution; a math, science, and mosaic design project that resulted in a community spiral herb garden; multiple creative dioramas combining environ­mental science and design; and many more!

In November of 2016, a part­nership was created between the ACC students and a group of seven general education students who had consistently struggled to collaborate pos­itively with peers. These stu­dents resist group work and have difficulties working with a team in a re­spectful and pro­ductive manner. They were given the opportunity to be student leaders in the classroom through collaboration on an architectural design project involving the use of or­ganic biodegradable materials.

During the project we ob­served the general education students being cooperative, kind, and engaged while assist­ing the ACC students. After several collaborations, general education teachers noticed an increase in a majority of stu­dents’ positive interactions within their classrooms. These students were more willing to work with others, and they even self-reflected on the experience, saying, “I am learn­ing more about myself and how I can be nice to people.” The use of arts integration contrib­uted not only to an increase in content knowledge but also im­provement in the students’ in­terpersonal skills.

In our experience at Bates, we have found that arts integration diminishes students’ barriers to accessing the curriculum. The collaboration promoted import­ant life skills and empa­thy among diverse student groups. We hope that these projects can serve as a model for other schools hoping to increase stu­dent engagement and cross-curricular connections.

Lauren McClintock and Patricia Melesh are special educators of the alternate curriculum class­room at Wiley H. Bates Middle School. Laura Wixon is the arts integration specialist and Me­gan Zimmerman is a 7th grade language arts teacher at Wiley H. Bates Middle School. They are all members of the Teach­er’s Association of Anne Arun­del County.

Get more from

We're here to help you succeed in your career, advocate for public school students, and stay up to date on the latest education news. Sign up to stay informed.
National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.