Art is one of the first classes cast aside when budget constraints and testing concerns rear their ugly heads. My school doesn’t have an art teacher at all, and we are an objective-meeting machine, so there isn’t much time for art in the regular classroom. This saddens me because I feel that as educators, we need to teach the whole child.
Part of that child is a creative mind and artistic spirit. I hear teachers becoming frustrated with students when they are unable to look for different solutions, think outside the box, or develop interesting writing. Those are exactly the skills that a creative classroom can teach. Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) highlights how the skills needed for art translate to the 21st century classroom. Are critical thinking skills, problem solving, research, inquiry, and collaboration an issue? Teach a child creativity and you’ve mastered them all. The best part? Kids like art. Plain and simple.
The argument is how to fit it in? How can someone committed to rigorous teaching in the age of high stakes testing take time out for “coloring”? The answer is arts integration. Bring the creative into the other subject. I struggle with finding enough time for science in our reading-, writing-, and arithmetic-laden day, so I pair science with art. It’s a natural way to encourage engagement and assess learning in a hands-on, meaningful way. Here are five inexpensive and easy lessons that have been successful for me and that I know can maximize your art and science time in the classroom.
Project: I introduce insects and arthropods with an interactive website, and students identify their main parts. Then we look at field guides and online images of different insects. I try to have real insects in viewing boxes or under the microscope for a close-up look. Then students create an insect out of Model Magic or other clay. Student must have the necessary parts to get a grade for the project, but I allow their colors to be whimsical. Finally, they create realistic backgrounds out of box lids or 2-liter bottles with the bottom removed. We display the insects in the hallway with insect trivia.
Project: While learning about migration and animal adaptations, I show students Gyotaku paintings. These Japanese fish rubbings were first used to track and record different fish. We discuss salmon migration and flounder eye adaptations and consider how these fish might have been interesting to record. Students paint thin paper blue, for water, and put salt on the wet paint to create a blotchy effect. After that dries, students draw into Styrofoam plates to make seaweed, kelp, or other watery background objects. They use their stamps to make prints. Finally, we take actual fish from local bait shops and roll ink on them. We print our fish onto the paper. When complete, we look for differences in the different fish used. (If you are squeamish, they make rubber fish just for this!)
Project: Students draw on black construction paper with regular crayons. I like to have my class draw the light spectrum. One by one, the papers are submerged in a bucket of plain water. While the picture is under water, drop clear nail polish on the surface of the water. (I’ve always used Sally Hansen Hard as Nails.) Then pull the paper up through the water and let it dry. The top becomes shiny, like oil on water. The nail polish becomes as thin as a wavelength of light, so each color of the spectrum is reflected, depending on how thick the polish is.
Project: Art isn’t just about visuals! Music can lend some fun to your science routine. Take a small plastic or paper cup and put a tight lid of aluminum foil on top. Hold it in place with a rubber band and then spread salt or sugar granules on the surface. Students make different sounds with instruments, clapping their hands or using their voice near the cup (but without blowing air on the surface). The salt will jump in response to the vibrations. Student will notice bigger jumps for louder and lower sounds. It will even “dance” when near a loud speaker. Students can actually see the vibrations made by sound waves.
Project: I saw this at the Sally Ride Science Festival and couldn’t wait to try it! Cut the bottom off a plastic soda or water bottle and screw a cap from a glue bottle on in place of the lid. Suspend the bottle from a tripod and center it over a large sheet of paper. Fill the bottle with thin paint and set the pendulum in motion. The design of the pendulum will be tracked from the falling paint on the floor. The motion creates a symmetrical splatter. Different mediums can be experimented with for viscosity testing. Students learn about the effect of gravity, the movement of a pendulum, and how different forces act. Try the project several times with different swinging speeds and rope lengths, graphing the results.
Science can be fun and art can be meaningful. You don’t need to be an artist or have a classroom of expensive supplies to create art integration that is fun and purposeful. What art activities do you use to teach?