Arts integration fills gaps in core-subject learning

976809_10151636660431212_131722587_oArts education within our society seems to be seen in the light of a separate component and/or supplementation to core subject learning. A shift in perspective should take place in the integration of arts education within the teaching of the core academic subjects. Research has shown that this integration enables to secure gaps in learning amongst students that struggle in varying areas of academics. What seems to occur is that the creativity from the arts integration stimulates the different parts of the brain that allow the student to see connections between the various subjects. This broader view of academia, facilitated by the arts integration, places the student in a unique position to create future connections within the life they live. They now see the world from new points of view by the connections they make. This might be the single most important component of arts-core subject integration.


Effective classroom arts integration can reduce or eliminate educational achievement gaps for economically disadvantaged students, according to a Mississippi State University research report.

In other words, when teachers reinforce academic concepts with the arts, students learn more and score higher on standardized tests.

MSU’s John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development generated the report, which evaluated the impacts of the Mississippi Whole Schools Initiative. The program supports teachers’ efforts to use the arts–composing, painting, drawing or sculpting; playing, singing or listening to music; and dancing and dramatic performance–to foster retention and learning.

Judith Philips, Stennis research associate, headed the development of “Arts Integration and the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Whole Schools Initiative: A Stennis Institute Study for Decision-Makers.” The report initially was presented at the Mississippi Arts Commission’s 2013 Whole Schools Initiative Summer Institute.

Philips said the research verifies that effective arts integration reinforces classroom learning.

“Schools that effectively implement arts integration have either significantly reduced or completely eliminated the educational achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students,” she said. “This research indicates that arts integration can achieve that objective in Mississippi public schools.”

Currently, almost 5,500 Mississippi students in eight public and four private elementary schools are participating in WSI. The study compared results on language arts and mathematics Mississippi Curriculum Tests, fourth-grade writing assessments and fifth-grade science tests to scores of students not enrolled in arts integrated classrooms.

“The percentage of students scoring ‘proficient or above’ on standardized tests was significantly higher at schools participating in the Whole Schools Initiative that had effectively implemented the WSI arts integration model, when compared to student performance statewide and when compared to student performance for the school district within which the WSI school was located,” Phillips told arts commission participants during her presentation.

Karen Brown, MSU instructor in curriculum, instruction and workforce development, teaches an arts integration course in MSU’s College of Education. She said she’s not surprised at the Stennis report’s findings because students, especially young children, gravitate to learning that way.

“Not only is it repetition, but it’s time spent whenever a child is learning something in a different way, that means they’re learning it again,” Brown said. “They’re repeating it, and so the immersion in their learning is a different form–through the arts–but it’s also more time spent on the content, so they start thinking critically and creatively.”

Brown said all MSU elementary education majors are required to take the arts integration course. She also takes a student group to WSI’s annual summer institute.

“Arts integration, from the perspective of a classroom teacher, is teaching both the content area and the arts together, and that takes some special training and special knowledge, but when you do that, it immerses the child in the content,” Brown said. Phillips said arts integration requires quality professional development and mentorships for teachers. Providing that training for teachers requires additional resources that many state school systems may not be able to provide, she acknowledged.

“Given our state’s budget constraints, the Stennis Institute recognizes that additional resources to support these efforts will need to come from either federal grants or from philanthropic organizations,” Phillips said. “To that end, we collaborated with the arts commission and wrote a grant for the commission to the U.S. Department of Education for an Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Program grant.”

If awarded, the DOE grant should pay for a national workshop leader and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts teaching artist to visit Mississippi on a quarterly basis. Phillips said the visiting expert would provide professional development, conduct student learning initiatives and train state teaching artists in implementing Moving through Math, a curriculum using movement, music, spatial reasoning, and interpersonal skills to teach mathematics, verbal and visual skills.

Brown said parents interested in having their children involved in arts integration should inquire with their respective school system administrators or inform other parents and teachers at parent-teacher organization meetings. Then, local advocates could request the school system apply for a WSI grant.

“I’d like to see increased involvement, funding and awareness from stakeholders, legislators, teachers, parents–everyone,” Brown said. “We have data that arts integration is working and making a difference in Mississippi classrooms.”

To read the Stennis Institute report’s executive summary or entire content, visit

The above story is based on materials provided by Mississippi State UniversityNote: Materials may be edited for content and length. /


Are you distracted by all of this? Technology as a Tool


We can all agree that we live in a society driven by technology. Our lives are constructed around how technology can be integrated into every aspect of our lives. From televisions in our automobiles to the synchronization of our phones with washer and dryers. Amidst all of this integration we find ourselves at the center of a technological vacuum that seems to such attention in ever second of every day. The question here is if we are becoming to involved with all of this stimuli or not? You can’t find someone that will take time out enough to not check Facebook or their email. What this does is keeps the person distracted from their own moments in time. Eventually, the time passes and they wonder where the time went. We are blessed to have such technology and information so readily available to us. However, we need to remember how important the present moment is – precious.

Mastering the Tech

In order to master the technology that we are surrounded by, we need to understand the fundamental uses for the technology. This should weed out the needless tinkering we do with them. Establishing this will better clear up our understanding of our relationship with the technology. Enabling us with the ability to discern where our attention goes in the midst of all of the caos. We must take it upon ourselves to understand where we are at every moment, at least for a while, until we are able to handle having this technology all around us. In drastic cases, a technology “fast” is needed. An extrication from the constant stimuli can offer the brain rest and rejuvenation that is extremely valuable.


Reinstating & Reintegration

In order to reinstate the technology back into our lives we must not forgot what role it plays in our lives. Remember the times you got distracted by all the goings-on, and pledge not to let that happen again. As we begin to use technology as tools, not letting technology use us, we find a sense of liberation and freedom. This will enable us to be creative and focused in how we use the technology presented. Instead of looking for the next screen to entertain us, we look for personal interactions with friends and family to fill that need for connection. As we gain strength, we realize that we have more control then we first thought. This is an empowering moment, clearing our mind from the sensory input. As a result we will be able to produce a high quality of content. When before, we might have been distracted, limiting the range in which we can produce. When we start to reintegrate technology into our lives, we understand it’s true place in our lives. Where we should use it, and where it has no place. This insight is key to our success if we plan on producing anything of longevity or sustainability. Always keep in mind that technology is a tool to be used for the ultimate materialization of your goals and dreams. Therefore, we should keep it at a distance, leaving us in control at all times.