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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

Science to Art!
Sharon Pettey-Taylor

When it comes to “using a variety of instructional strategies and resources to respond to students’ diverse needs” (Professional Teaching Standards), creating an opportunity to explore and make connections to another subject area may add another dimension of multiple approaches and solutions to your curriculum design.

Chante Glenn, a returning alumna and beginning science instructor at Boys and Girls High School (“the pride and joy of Bed/Stuy”), Brooklyn, NY, has captured the attention of her students in a most resourceful way. The following dialogue took place during one of our many post-visitation conferences, highlighting "what's working" in her classroom.

SP-T: Ms. Glenn, I have come to appreciate your creative approach to engaging students in “Living Environment” classes throughout this school year. Namely, how you have skillfully integrated another content area into your curriculum--art in all its forms of expression. What inspired you to adapt this kind of differentiated instruction into your unit planning?

CG: I would have to say that I was inspired by my students’ artistic abilities. Initially, the idea of combining art and science was a device to engage my artistic and visual learners. I observed some of my students sketching or doodling. I realized the talent they possessed and the potential to draw them into the lesson with art. Quickly, I noticed that many of my students preferred to draw, color, cut and paste their way to science success. Furthermore, there are career opportunities (i.e., science illustration) for individuals skilled in science and art.  

SP-T: I would guess some of your students were not particularly comfortable “expressing” themselves through art forms. How did you get them to overcome their inhibitions?

CG: Teaching high school students, I have encountered some “I’m too old for this” and “I can’t draw” opposition. For the “I’m too old” group, I simply explain that “all you have to do is cut and paste this construction paper to get class credit,” sometimes mimicking their vernacular and diction--“this class is mad easy.” A statement like that not only makes them laugh (a teacher using slang) but it also makes them feel comfortable. As for the “I can’t draw” group, I simply tell them to do their personal best. When it comes to art and science, I expect and only accept their personal best.

SP-T: Fusing art and science certainly has another great advantage – “creating a physical environment that engages all students” (PTS). Your classroom  reflects and promotes your learning goals. I’m sure you’ve received many compliments – from colleagues, parents, supervisors and perhaps even students.

CG: Yes. My Principal, Mr. Spencer Holder, has complimented me by saying that he can see there is a lot of learning going on in my classroom. My AP, Ms. Catrina Williams, stops by often and nods her approval.  Likewise, my colleagues are amazed at the quality of the artwork. Plus, since all the walls and doors inside and outside of the classroom are covered with exceptional student work, I get acknowledged for the noticeable productivity . Students also come into my class and say, “Ms. Glenn, I would like to be in your class.”  Still, all of the praises are due to students. They are combining their knowledge of science content with their artistic skills. The results are amazing!

SP-T: Indeed, they truly are. In monitoring and assessing your students’ progress over time, have you observed any increase in student achievement?

CG: Yes. Student achievement does improve with the incorporation of art in the activities. I have taught units using the chalkboard for note taking and handouts, as a follow-up. The students do not appear to be as excited to learn this way and usually end up less focused on the lesson. Their test scores then reflected their lack of enthusiasm. However, the units I taught using art result in higher test scores. The art component gives the students another way of understanding the classwork. They are more involved in the lesson. Thus, improving their grades.

Thank you, Ms. Glenn, for your time and invaluable insights. I am sure many other educators will seriously take a second look at blending various art forms into their future lesson planning.

References: 
Engaging and Supporting Students in Learning. Creating and Maintaining an Effective Environment for  Student Learning.

The Professional Teaching Standards. New Teacher Center at The University of California, Santa Cruz, 2004.

See - The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

Acknowledgements:
Many thanks to the staff and administration of :

Boys and Girls High School, Brooklyn, NY
Spencer D.A. Holder, Principal
Sheila Shale, AP Administration
Catrina Williams, AP Science

Do you have a comment, question, or suggestion about this article? E-mail Sharon.

 

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