Total Eclipse of the Arts

Posted: 10th April 2018 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

I was trying to think of some of my earliest, and most memorable, connections to the arts.  The list was quite eclectic.  My first clear memory of dance was that time in Kindergarten I convinced Ms. Cadman to let me perform a tap show for the class.  I had never (and still have never) taken a tap lesson but felt my cute little patent shoes warranted a performance.  I have a strong memory in 1985 of long trips in the car to visit my dad in the hospital singing “Rock Me Amadeus” and “Life in a Northern Town”.  Those two distinct (and really diverse) songs for some reason are forever tied to my memory of coping through a difficult year for my family.  As a teenager, I worked for an Arts Council and got to work with some talented visual artists.  Listening to one artist who explained her thinking behind the pretty pictures I admired gave me so much more depth and appreciation for the art.  I no longer just saw pretty pictures but saw whole stories.

The arts are critical to the memories and connections we each have in our lives.  They are impactful in minor and major ways.  They help us cope, learn, love, laugh.  We use them to relax, to entertain, to express our thoughts and to understand how others feel.  They are so important to us in each stage of life.

I started thinking about all of this as I work on scheduling for my school for next year.  Squeezing in enough minutes for math, sciences, languages, physical literacies and the arts is an impossible puzzle.  There simply is not enough time to do each subject justice in isolation.

The only solution is to not teach them in isolation.  We do need to devote some specific time to instruction in each arts strand – visual arts, music, dance, drama – to develop knowledge and skills (that would have definitely helped my tap performance).  But practice and application of those knowledge and skills can be woven into the learning of other subjects well.  If we use the arts to express ourselves, we should consider ways to encourage students to express their learning using art media often. It is sometimes difficult to figure out how to assess or measure a student’s learning about a subject when the expression isn’t pencil/paper tasks.  It is also difficult for students to find ways to express themselves creatively, but using the arts can build resiliency and problem solving, which are also critical to their development.  Hard work for all?  Yes.  But worth it.

So, while I work to fill in too few boxes on my timetable with arts-specific subject lines, I will also figure out how to encourage the teachers I work with to find ways to bring the arts into the other boxes.  Eclipsing the schedule lines could bring more, not less, light to the learning of our students.

How do you bring the arts into other subjects?


  1. adunsige says:

    Thank you for this post, Kristi! This to me speaks to the 100 languages of children. It was both you, and Karen Wilkins, many years ago that helped me see The Arts as a way that children can communicate learning. This was a powerful revelation for me, and I’m thrilled to see that this same thinking is evident in the Kindergarten Program Document. I can’t even tell you the number of ways that our K students use The Arts to communicate their thinking and learning: through the pictures they draw, their paintings, their storytelling, their made-up songs, and even their creative movement inside the classroom and outside. The Arts are powerful languages, and while I wish that your timetable problem didn’t exist, maybe the fact that it does gives people the opportunity to really explore music, drama, dance, and visual arts as languages. Imagine the benefits for kids! So curious to hear what others have to say about this.


  2. Sue Dunlop says:

    Kristi – this is such a worthwhile conversation and a very real challenge for school leaders and educators. I wonder whether time spent thinking at a staff meeting might help spark ideas about how to teach arts in combination with other subjects?