Teach SmART

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Teaching kids about God and witnessing those moments when they
genuinely “get it”-it’s one of the greatest gifts in all of
children’s ministry. And even though many volunteers and leaders
who serve kids each week aren’t professional educators, they can
easily recognize when a teaching method is an all-out flop-and when
a method really gains traction with kids.

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Here’s one that’ll change the way you think about teaching when
you see the impact it has on kids: Arts Integration.

Children walk through your doors with predisposed access points
of learning-areas where they naturally thrive. Access points may be
through music, visual arts, drama, dance, or technical skills; the
possibilities are endless. To help all kids engage better with what
they’re learning, you can work to recognize and teach lessons
through these access points so learning becomes an equitable and
exciting process. Arts Integration is one key strategy in which
teachers create an environment where all kids can become artisans
of learning.

What Is Arts Integration?

Arts Integration is a researchbased teaching strategy that
encourages teaching content in and through the arts. In its most
basic form, this means kids are engaged in using visual art, drama,
music, or dance intentionally as a way to learn math, reading,
writing, science, social studies, or Christian education concepts.
It sounds simple enough, yet using this strategy with authenticity
is sometimes a challenge. Arts Integration is more than creating a
stained-glass picture collage to show a parable taught by Jesus;
it’s more than just arts and crafts. Arts Integration is an
intentional approach to learning, with naturally-aligned objectives
being taught and assessed equitably throughout the lesson. This
means teachers look at fi ne arts objectives and content objectives
to seek a natural match between the two. This may mean writing a
lesson that seamlessly uses the art form as the access point for
kids learning the content concept or adapting existing curriculum
to include a natural alignment with the art form. At the end of the
lesson, kids have progressed toward owning the lesson concept as
well as the arts skill used to teach.

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An Example

While it can seem like a diffi cult task to integrate the arts
in your lesson, don’t be intimidated. Finding an applicable art
form is a wide-open prospect simply because so many possibilities
exist, from painting to music to movement to so much more. Let’s
look at an example of an Arts Integration lesson to get an idea of
how you can adapt your lessons to include this important learning
approach.

This lesson is based on
a centralized theme. Simply use the step-bystep example as a guide
to incorporating the arts into your lessons.

Why Arts Integration?

Arts Integration is a very effective method of teaching that has
been used and researched for more than 25 years in mainstream
education. Studies show signifi cant increases in retention and
application of concepts taught in and through the arts-and kids
love it. It’s exciting, creative, and challenging. Integrating the
arts into lessons aligns with the natural way the human brain
functions. Humans don’t live and learn in boxes that are
compartmentalized within their bodies. Instead, we use all of our
senses-all of our access points-to synthesize the concepts we’re
learning and make meaning out of these concepts for ourselves. The
arts are a natural avenue for ingesting, digesting, and producing
elements of our world and our faith. By teaching in and through the
arts with Arts Integration, we’re simply tapping into and engaging
kids in the way they naturally learn best.

Additionally, the arts are all about processes that lead to an
incredible end product. There’s tremendous value for kids in
practicing essential skills and then creating a new way to express
thought using artistic habits. By implementing this learning
approach, we provide kids with the ability to think independently
as artisans and to make choices that refl ect their true learning.
This leads to understanding that’s richer and more comprehensive
than through traditional methods of teaching.

Artisans in Your Midst

Just as Jesus was a master carpenter who constructed works of
art from simple elements, all children and teachers are artisans in
their journey through the world. Through actively and intentionally
practicing patience and persistence in integrating art forms into
learning, we can help all children discover who God made them to
be. As Christian educators, we have the privilege to embrace all
our kids’ talents so they can grow in their learning and love of
the world that God has given to us all.

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