Our Stories

Arts Integration at JPDS-NC

November 20, 2015 by Janet Collier (Faculty and Staff)

A parent views the gallery of student artwork.The integration of the arts into other academic disciplines provides to children important windows into the world and important languages for exploring, finding, and expressing the meaning they make of the world. True arts integration results in all students learning the skills, habits of mind, and real-world purposes of the arts while at the same time learning the skills, habits of mind, and real-world purposes of academic disciplines. They are engaged in learning and using an art form, first, to come to a deeper understanding of and facility with both the art form and the academic topic at hand, and then, to effectively communicate their understanding to others. It is also important to know what arts integration is not. It is not simply telling or allowing a child to draw a picture to show understanding of a story or a concept or to write a skit to show understanding of a historical event or scientific process, for example. Practiced at its fullest and most rewarding, children become, perhaps, scientists and dancers, readers and sculptors, mathematicians and musicians, historians and painters, in tandem, developing important competencies in both fields, with each field illuminating the other.

One source of inspiration as we continue to work toward greater arts integration at JPDS-NC has been the Mara Bershad Fund for the Arts. Thanks to the fund, the 6th graders’ trip to New York City was re-thought in order to support each graduating class in pulling together their learning in and many experiences with the arts and other subject areas through the years. The trip integrates the fine arts, the performing arts, and architecture with aspects of their learning in Social Studies, Judaic Studies, and Jewish history. While the specific activities vary year to year depending on what is available, the students always participate in a Broadway workshop at which they learn music and choreography from the Broadway musical they will attend (and then they bring these skills back to school to use in preparing their graduation ceremony). They visit various museums, where they attend studio sessions as well as view art on exhibit. They focus on the visual feast that is New York City and its varied architecture, such as modernist buildings, tenements, and synagogues that reflect their time and the heritage of their congregations. A fun graduation trip has been transformed into a meaningful learning experience.

We often come to understand what we think about something only when we have to sit down and write about it. And, clearly, without being able to express ourselves in words, both orally and in writing, we would find ourselves at a profound disadvantage. We must think of the arts in the same way. With the many languages of the arts, our ability to make sense of the world, to envision what the world could be, and to fully tap into our feelings, our ideas, our imaginations, our gifts, and our wonder is significantly enhanced. Furthermore, we ensure that all of our students move toward their fullest promise as we honor and listen to the many languages of the arts.