Schools that integrate dance, music, and art

Tucson classroom

Here’s a delightful piece about public elementary schools in Tucson, Arizona where arts are integrated into every “academic” subject, from math to social studies. For example, first graders write their own operas and fourth graders learn science by playing the violin.

A sweeping initiative in the Tucson Unified School District to improve student achievement through an interdisciplinary curriculum that fuses the arts and academic subjects. The project, Opening Minds Through the Arts, is built on brain-based learning theories and research into children’s neurological development.

And some interesting results.

In the first three years, the nonprofit research firm WestEd tracked the OMA schools along with demographically matched controls: All six schools had high percentages of low-income students, English-language learners, and children of transient families. OMA students significantly outscored their counterparts in reading, math, and writing, and although the benefits held across all ethnicities, Hispanic students, in particular, made substantial gains in writing.

WestEd also found that teachers in OMA schools did better than their peers on every indicator, including lesson planning and design, arts-integrated instruction, and the creative use of varied learning activities. Today, 40 of Tucson’s more than 70 elementary schools have at least some elements of OMA. Pilot projects are under way at 4 of the district’s 20 middle schools.

Corbett, a Title I school with about 600 students, was one of the original OMA sites, and the program initially met resistance there. Teachers worried about sacrificing precious minutes in an already jammed day to music or dance, recalls Principal Joyce Dillon. “Now they say, ‘It’s so completely related to what we’re teaching. I never want to give it up.'”

Robert Godfrey

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Filed under AMPS, Best Practices, education, National News

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