Moving Student’s Creativity, Mindsets, Engagement, and Achievement: Some of Our Learning To Date

By Ross Anderson, Project Director & Principal Investigator

After three years of development, ArtCore appears to be maturing into a viable and effective approach. Through shared leadership distributed across this complex project, the 2016–2017 school year marked some important milestones and provided big lessons to carry forward.

Lane Arts Council and the rest of the ArtCore team hosted a community-wide arts integration Saturday conference. Betsy Wolfston and muralist Bayne Gardner launched several student-driven murals to express Oaklea Middle School’s identity. Other ArtCore middle schools followed that lead with their own murals this year. Jess Land and Nate Beard led the ArtCore team to immerse more than 50 middle school teachers in five days of intensive arts integration training using theater, hip hop, sculpture, costume design, and dance to explore critical issues of equity and creativity. Mari Livie and Network Charter School received $50,000 to renovate a building into a music studio classroom and solidify the integrative music program that ArtCore has established. Michele Haney refined documentation of more than 20 high quality arts integration module examples that bridge almost every art discipline with school subject areas. Working with Media Arts Institute, the team has created a 3-part Math Anxiety Monster video-based training series.

Alongside those project milestones, the collaborative ArtCore research and evaluation team has been busy posing research questions, collecting and analyzing all types of data, and reporting those insights for internal project improvement and external dissemination. Our research has focused on the teacher experience and schoolwide integration of the work as well as the student experience and the potential effects of arts integration on motivation, engagement, and achievement. We have been testing specific aspects of our driving hypothesis for student learning:

Through rigorous and creative arts integration, middle school students will develop their creative resources for learning, gain a deeper sense of agency in their education, adopt a growth mindset, increase their engagement in school, and perform at higher levels academically and creatively. 

Each school has supported longitudinal survey data collection and dedicated substantial time and energy. That effort will allow us to test this theory fully at the end of this school year. Hopefully, the evidence will help shape the national conversation about what matters in middle school.

Below are some specific indicators that we have detected to support some aspects of the hypothesis posited above.

  • On average, students received at least 50 hours of arts integrated learning as 7th graders
  • During their 6th grade year, ArtCore students doubled the number of novel ideas they produced in divergent thinking tasks
  • Compared to their responses at the beginning of 6th grade, 7th grade ArtCore students reported a 25% improvement in their growth mindset.
  • Compared to their responses at the beginning of 6th grade, 7th grade ArtCore students reported a 28% improvement in their engagement in school. That is notable because past research indicates an expected decline in engagement during middle school years.
  • Students’ observed creative engagement in ArtCore classes rates consistently high.
  • Since the first year of implementation, the percent of 7th grade ArtCore cohort students reaching proficiency rose 14% in English language arts and 25% in math, bigger improvements than seen at comparison schools.
  • In their own words, students describe the experience of arts integration with their teacher and an ArtCore Weaver as “. . . the sun coming out on a cloudy day.”

Those findings are initial and require substantially more analyses that the research team will complete in the next year. Those results demonstrate some early promise for the approach that ArtCore and participating teachers have collaborated to create. Creative engagement that integrates quality arts learning into other subject areas with a focus on the creative process can shape students’ motivation, mindsets, and achievement in school. 

Beyond student learning and outcomes, we have been studying the effect of ArtCore on the culture and identity of the school. Our evaluation of the first full year of implementation was just published in the book, Arts Evaluation and Assessment: Measuring the Impact in Schools. If you would like a copy of the chapter, please email Ross Anderson at Our findings reinforce the power of developing a strong identity and culture for arts integration in your school and the fact that it is never too late to get started on that ever-important work.

Students Get Busy at Cascade Middle School

By Michele Haney

Cascade Middle School students have been busy these last few months! They’ve been watercoloring, using calligraphy, making drawings, and adding to their new school mural. 

The year began with the mural, designed in collaboration between Cascade ArtCore teaching artist, Michele Haney, and local muralist, Bayne Gardner, with support from Imagination International

The mural, which can be seen in the photo below, depicts the school mascot, a cougar, the Willamette Valley, and mountains in the background.

All Cascade students wrote about their vision for their futures, and ten students per grade level were chosen for their insightful and creative responses. Haney encouraged students to use pieces of their responses, sentiments such as "you can succeed, no exceptions" and "be remembered," in their mural designs. Each of the 30 students worked with Haney to add original quotes and ideas to the mural. There is still plenty of space to fill as the years roll on.  

Mural at Cascade Middle School.jpg

In addition to work on the school mural, Haney has been collaborating with teachers to integrate more art into core subject areas. In Social Studies, Haney and teacher Allan Pinkerton transformed each class of 8th graders into a news team, writing and designing the front page of a Revolutionary Era newspaper. Using carbon paper and calligraphy pens, students wrote articles, drew images and designed the layout of their newspapers in groups. 

news photo.jpg

After her work with Pinkerton, Haney moved to math to collaborate with teacher Amber Jackson. Just before students left for holiday break, they enhanced their understanding of mathematical proportions and scaling through studying facial anatomy. Students first drew a generic, proportional face, and then brought in their own photos to scale up and put their skills to use. Students spent three days working diligently and produced accurate, impressive drawings. 

baby photo.jpg

Stay tuned to hear more about art integration at Cascade! 

Educators Explore Arts Integration During Summer Institute

By Stacey Ray

As an artist and a program manager working within an organization with a heavy focus on arts education, I have a good sense of what arts integration is all about. But even still, I sometimes have trouble visualizing what arts integration actually looks like in action. I imagine this perspective might be heightened if I were a science, math or social studies teacher. What does it actually mean in practice?

This summer I had the fortunate opportunity of participating in the ArtCore Summer Institute, a four-day training for educators. Teachers in varying disciplines from five area middle schools came together to investigate this very question — to discover methods and strategies for how they might practice arts integration in  their own classrooms.

The institute opened with a conversation on story and equity, and continued with collaborative, hands-on workshops. The UO theatre department welcomed teachers to their costume shop, where they experimented with interpreting ideas through costume design. Others investigated possibilities with theatre and movement. Throughout the institute, participants were encouraged to reflect on their experiences in creative ways, such as the collaborative mural that participants added to through the course of the institute, experiencing how the arts are a natural fit for reflective thinking.

Teachers and Weavers used basic theatre exercises to investigate empathy and cultures of thinking.

Teachers and Weavers used basic theatre exercises to investigate empathy and cultures of thinking.

Intensive "Deep Dive" sessions took teacher groups along a journey of arts integrated learning across four subject areas: 1) Mathematics and Movement, 2) Social Studies and Theatre, 3) Language Arts and Music, and 4) Science and Visual Arts. Each group experienced first-hand how arts integrated curriculum enhances the learning experience and contributed to a final showcase presenting their creative work.

A group works together on a mandala as part of a "Deep Dive" session.

A group works together on a mandala as part of a "Deep Dive" session.

The “Science and Visual Arts” Deep Dive explored scientific concepts through collaborative sculpture, with plenty of time for research, group discussion, and reflection. I discovered how exploring science in a creative way impacted my learning experience. Our sculpture focused on explaining divergent and convergent evolution. The process gave us the opportunity to analyze, interpret and share the information in our own way, through a process that was both fun and memorable.

The highlight of the institute was seeing participants take risks, work through challenges and end feeling proud and accomplished. Together, we acknowledged that just as some students might be somewhat uncomfortable with movement or visual arts, others might feel more trapped in a textbook and that allowing for multiple pathways for learning better engages everyone.

Punctuated with bursts of unaltered creativity and expression, the four days ebbed and flowed with moments of reflection, risk-taking, achievement and many happy surprises.

Everyone was invited to reflect on their experience and add to a colorful collaborative mural.

Everyone was invited to reflect on their experience and add to a colorful collaborative mural.

We invite you to these upcoming professional development events:

Winter Institute | February 3, 2018

Discover how art and creativity can enrich your classroom in this one day institute. Open to all current educators across grade levels at ArtCore schools. Learn more

Northwest Arts Integration Conference | April 21, 2018

All artists, educators, and practitioners are invited to the 2nd annual professional development conference focused on arts integration in K-12 education. This year’s theme “Empowering Student Voice” will explore how arts integrated learning opens doors for all students to participate, engage and grow. Learn more

Module Spotlight: Recycled Civilizations

By Isabel Engel

Hello! I hope you enjoyed last week’s module spotlight on Anxiety Monsters, created by Nathan Beard. I heard a lot of great feedback, and some even mentioned they wanted to create anxiety monsters for their own anxieties with work or other items in life! I always think a creative outlet is great for releasing stress and anxieties. If you missed last week’s post, check it out here.

This week we will be looking at Recycled Civilizations, created by Michele Haney, Cascade Middle School Weaver.

Figure 1: Example of entire civilization- shelter, water, food storage and more!

Figure 1: Example of entire civilization- shelter, water, food storage and more!

Academic Subject of Integration: Social Studies

What’s the Big Idea? Engineering our own lost civilizations teaches us how the parts of a civilization make up the whole, and gives us a foundation for learning about other civilizations old and new.

Figure 2: Example of a shelter

Figure 2: Example of a shelter

What is it? In this module, students work as a team to build Neolithic civilizations out of only recycled materials. The students are given the age of the civilizations, the number of inhabitants and the type of environment, but they are tasked with researching and creating a model of that civilization. Using recycled materials not only keeps the cost down on the project, but teaches students how ancient civilizations needed to use the resources available to them to build their homes and cities. At the end of the project, students give a short group presentation about their model, discussing materials used, layout, and challenges they encountered along the way.

Figure 3: Example of a shelter

Figure 3: Example of a shelter

Main Purpose: Creative projects that get students to actively participate help them to understand and retain the material better. By starting with blueprints and moving to models, students are applying classroom knowledge it to real world activities. A creative group project gets students to invest into what they are learning and teaches them real world skills such as project management, design, organization, communication and teamwork. By using recycled materials, the students are also engaged in critical thinking to be able to transform an ordinary object into an entirely new object, such as an egg carton into stairs, or a paper towel tube into a tower.

Figure 4: Josef Bonham, CMS 8th grader, presenting his Neolithic Civilization Model

Figure 4: Josef Bonham, CMS 8th grader, presenting his Neolithic Civilization Model

Want to see more? Navigate to the ArtCore Modules section under “Teaching & Learning” or you can click here.

Module Spotlight: Anxiety Monsters

By Isabel Engel

Hello! Welcome to our new biweekly segment, where over the summer, we will highlight one of our modules each week!

What is a Module you say? Great question!

Our integrated learning specialists, (Weavers, as we call them) integrate creative learning opportunities into core curriculum through units called "modules”. 

ArtCore modules are inspired by big ideas, driven by essential questions that emerge from the curricular content, arts disciplines, and student learning experience.

With purposeful alignment to national and state academic and arts standards, ArtCore modules foster engaging instruction rooted in social-emotional learning skills, metacognitive strategies, and authentic assessment of student learning.  

This week, we will be looking at Anxiety Monsters, created by Nate Beard, Hamlin Middle School Weaver.

3D representation of math anxiety. You can see in the background the original drawing of the anxiety monster.

3D representation of math anxiety. You can see in the background the original drawing of the anxiety monster.

Subject Integration: Math (though this could be integrated into any subject! Many people have anxiety over tests, papers, public speaking or other areas).

What’s the Big Idea? We can enhance our relationship with math by understanding where our math anxiety comes from, what it looks like, and how it affects us and our capacity to learn.

Hamlin Middle School Student example of their anxiety monster.

Hamlin Middle School Student example of their anxiety monster.

What is it? In this module, students learn about anxiety, and how everyone has anxiety in one way or another about math. Students draw visual representations, and use those drawings as a template for a 3D representation of their math anxiety. By discussing anxiety with their peers, students learn that anxiety is normal, and can be reduced when talking about it with a peer or teacher. Once this line of communication has been opened, students will be much more likely to ask questions in class about material they do not understand, creating a healthy and vibrant learning atmosphere.

Main Purpose: By showing students that they are not alone in their anxiety and providing them tools to cope and grow their resiliency in the face of learning challenges, they can begin to create positive relationships with tricky content and learning experiences that presented a struggle in the past. Some of these tools are taking an anxiety assessment to gain awareness, learning techniques to generate calmness through breathing, journaling about their thoughts and feelings, and exploring and representing those feelings through an art form. Based on insights from students, it is clear that those tools can become applicable to many parts of a student's life. Further, by learning to Engage & Persist through personal challenges, students can carry these new skills into high school and onward as they shape healthy lives in young adulthood. Perhaps one of the most powerful reflections that we have heard come from participating math teachers. Several reported a new understanding about their students and the kinds of instructional decisions they can make as teachers to support their students’ resilience and healthy relationship to math.

Hamlin Middle School student example of their anxiety monster.

Hamlin Middle School student example of their anxiety monster.

Want to see more? Navigate to the ArtCore Modules section under “Teaching & Learning” or you can click here.

Persevering in the Face of Adversity

By Michele Haney

Embedded within academic learning is, and should be, learning how to deal with the challenges of being human. That is, overcoming stereotype, forming an awareness of your own biases, and cultivating strength to persevere in the face of adversity.

In middle school, students are confronted with all of these challenges and more, but don’t always have an opportunity in the classroom to discuss ways to respond to and overcome them.

In particular, young female students who dream of a career in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) may not feel capable of pursuing such goals due to imbedded stereotypes. Young male students may not be aware of how powerful their support of their female classmates in typically male-dominated fields can be.

Thus, a module at Cascade Middle School was born through a collaboration between teachers Tyler Bryan and Alexa Lachman and weaver Michele Haney. The lesson centered on the premise that a huge inequality still exists when it comes to the number of women in STEM careers and that much of this is due to social and environmental barriers such as stereotype threat and implicit bias.

To provide students problem solving skills surrounding these challenges, the lesson took this "3-A" approach:

  • Awareness: What does stereotype and bias look like? How can a person acknowledge and make positive change?
  • Appreciation: Who deserves our appreciation for overcoming stereotype? How can we show our appreciation? 
  • Action plan: How can we get from where we are now to where we want to be in future career?

First, students were given prompts to perform tableaux about stereotypes that affect men and women. In groups, students planned and performed these stereotypes, and then a reverse, “growth mindset” version of the stereotypes. Being expected to act out both a negative stereotype and a positive response gives students an ability to experience, rather than simply imagine, the emotional stress surrounding stereotype threat and implicit bias.

Elissa, Claire and Fern tableaux the stereotype that a woman can’t keep up with the demands of a career in science the way a man can.

Elissa, Claire and Fern tableaux the stereotype that a woman can’t keep up with the demands of a career in science the way a man can.

Next, students were asked to choose one woman to research. Students complete a worksheet with questions ranging from the woman’s biographical details to how the student could grow to become more like her and what Studio Habits of Mind they would need to employ to do so.

When students finished their research, they were asked to write a first-person narrative about their chosen woman. This narrative was designed to explain about the woman’s life and career, obstacles she has needed to overcome, and what she hopes others will take from her work. For certain questions, students needed to use their own critical thinking and imaginations to provide answers. Through this lens, we discovered that male students also related to the skills that these women in STEM have needed to persevere.

A lesson on composition design, including color theory, using focal points and various font and bolding choices led to the final project: turning the narratives into illustrated final drafts. Students thought carefully about the inventions and events associated with their women to make artistic choices.

Jackson’s narrative about Marie Curie.

Jackson’s narrative about Marie Curie.

Jakob’s narrative about Emily Calandrelli.

Jakob’s narrative about Emily Calandrelli.

A project that began with a discussion about gender stereotypes culminated in over 95 thoughtfully and creatively designed narratives about inspiring women in STEM careers.

Maddy’s narrative about Sarah Boysen.

Maddy’s narrative about Sarah Boysen.

As a weaver, I plan immersive and often demanding modules because I want students to know that they are powerful, capable and talented individuals. I have high expectations because I want them to believe in their abilities to invent, create and support meaningful work in their lifetimes.

As I read through the final drafts, I have no doubt that these students will go forth with kind hearts and resilient spirits.

Creating Collaboratively: We Are All Learning

By Jessica Land

Students begin their sculpture by combining individual objects to make the “core.”

Students begin their sculpture by combining individual objects to make the “core.”

This week, the seventh grade Spanish Immersion students at Kelly Middle School completed a group sculpture process that engaged them in creative collaboration and self-reflection. Each group’s mixed media sphere began with an inner “core” made of an object chosen by each student to represent their inner world. Then, they combined these to represent their support systems, both at home and at school. Building outward from the center, students identified and visually represented a personal strength, then worked together to choose a message they wanted their sculpture to convey. Each group’s message was unique; ranging from freedom of expression to the importance of recycling, and “saving the arctic” to individuality. One group chose to devote their sculpture to visually representing their class’s guiding poem, In Lak’ech, which carries a message of empathy and unity for all humans.

Students envisioned their sculptures and reflected on the process in individual accordion sketch books.

Students envisioned their sculptures and reflected on the process in individual accordion sketch books.

During their creative process, students experienced the typical pitfalls of collaboration: group members taking over or checking out, dissimilar creative visions, varied skill levels, time limitations, personality clashes. We had several “stop-and-fix” moments, when we left the sculpture and worked on group dynamics. In one case, groups created tableaux sequences showing what they were doing well and what they needed to work on. This helped them re-focus. They returned to the sculpture understanding that the quality of their interactions have an effect on their creative process and, ultimately, the message they send out to the world.

This group’s message was the importance of seeing that the whole is made of unique individuals.]

This group’s message was the importance of seeing that the whole is made of unique individuals.]

Working as an ArtCore Weaver—not only as a co-designer of arts-integrated curriculum in my school, but also as a member of a broader team that includes artists, teachers from other schools, administrators, researchers, and students—has engaged me in collaborative design on many levels. I have come to understand that we are all learning, all the time, and we are doing it together.

A few weeks ago, three of us from the ArtCore weaver team attended a workshop on collaborative design. As I was sitting in the workshop, learning practical tools for engaging in creative work with other adults, I began to see what my students have been teaching me, through their collaborative process:

  • Remember to “stop and fix,” when it is necessary, to address group dynamics;
  • Routinely talk about group dynamics, power, and emotional well-being;
  • Make space for all voices;
  • Consider new ways;
  • Experiment, fail, and try a new approach;
  • Sometimes connecting is more important than deciding;
  • Ultimately, choosing a course is important, too. Decisions do have to be made;
  • Sometimes deadlines are helpful, and sometimes deadlines need to be extended.

As students reflected upon their collaborative process, I heard them identifying their own areas of growth: “sharing ideas and working together,” “listening to each others’ ideas,” “communicating,” and “sharing the work.” They talked about mistakes and how they overcame them together. Perhaps most importantly, when they presented their sculptures to the class, almost all students demonstrated pride and ownership for what they had created.

When engaging in truly authentic creative collaboration, the path is rarely linear, and there is not a road map for the route a group is likely to take. This means that practicing skills that support healthy collaboration—communication, shared leadership, decision-making, failing forward, empathy—is essential.

This group’s message is freedom of expression and Pride. They expressed wanting to hang their sculpture inside the entrance to the school so everyone who comes to Kelly Middle School will feel welcome

This group’s message is freedom of expression and Pride. They expressed wanting to hang their sculpture inside the entrance to the school so everyone who comes to Kelly Middle School will feel welcome

Planting Seeds of Creativity at Network Charter School

By Mari Livie

With only 15 students in my music class (the average count for all Network Charter School classes) and a physical space that best accommodates a circle of chairs, I find that our comfortable class format is much like a round table discussion or a Socratic seminar. My role is to plant seeds for conversation and debate and then to participate and listen. Discussions invariably veer off topic. Sometimes I gently nudge things back in a direction and other times I follow the flow of conversation into the surprising places it can go. I try to make space for every voice in the classroom. I want each student to see themselves as someone with a valid opinion who has the tools to communicate their ideas effectively and concisely. I strive for a learning environment where students recognize their opinions and positions as fluid, flexible things. 

It is a human tendency — one that is being vividly illustrated in our current political climate — to hold our opinions so close that they grow entangled with our sense of self. In truth, opinions are all imperfect things. They are an ever-shifting mixture of personal history, social connections, incomplete facts, ego, empathy, and more.

If we can share our own opinions, genuinely listen to the opinions of others, and confidently shift our opinions when new facts come into play we are ready to be participating community members.  

Our nation’s democratic process is built on an expectation that its citizens are participating community members. Our courts, our elections, our Senate and House of Representatives are all built around this process of sharing opinions through open debate. As a society, we make progress when we can let go of fiercely held positions, and begin the process of listening and compromise that eventually leads to innovation. The process can be arduous, time consuming, and feel threatening to our sense of self.

As a teacher I used to emphasize developing skill sets as a path toward healthy sense of self.

I still make skill-building an aspect of our classroom paradigm — I want students to see themselves as competent singers or ukulele players — but through my ArtCore teaching experience, my classroom goals have shifted.

The process can be messy and unclear. I sit through discussions about whether Disneyland is creepy or incredible. I facilitate debates over our class “band name”. 

Things get heated and absurd, but the rich experience of participating in decision making as a community — the vulnerable but exciting potential of having your opinion prodded and shifted through open dialogue while your Self remains intact — that is the heart of our classroom culture. 

SHOMroom...that's right...SHOM practice in Homeroom

An ArtCore student's poem about their art world.

An ArtCore student's poem about their art world.

“How might refining your observation skills help you be a better artist? Writer? Scientist?”

“Was this more a pragmatic or creative solution?”

“What kinds of feedback help you engage and persist in your work?”

“What is the difference between prose and poetry?”

            These are questions ArtCore students have been grappling with in an effort to learn about the 8 Studio Habits of Mind (or SHOM, as we lovingly refer to them on a deep reverberating exhalation). Beginning in Fall as a collaboration between a middle school principal and an ArtCore weaver, one school decided to try introducing the SHOM to students through brief homeroom activities.

            Each Shomroom lesson focuses on one of the SHOM habits during a 20 minute period. The lessons generally begin with students generating a definition of the SHOM of the day, then transition to watching the related ArtCore artist profile video (or another video relevant to the curriculum). They conclude with a short hands-on exercise designed to open them to their learning. 

Here are some examples:

Azerbaijan's Heydar Aliiyev Centre by the late Iraqi-British architect, Zaha Hadid (credit: Iwan Bann)

Azerbaijan's Heydar Aliiyev Centre by the late Iraqi-British architect, Zaha Hadid (credit: Iwan Bann)

SHOMroom: Envision

Define “envision” as a class and then watch Kari Turner’s ArtCore video about her life as an architect. We discussed a few of the questions below after the video: 

  • Does architecture make people's lives better? How?
  • Did you know in kindergarten what you wanted to do? If yes, have your ideas changed? If no, do you have an idea now?
  • Is anyone interested in architecture? What do you think an architect does? Does an architect do anything besides design houses? What other problems might they need to solve?
  • Do you like helping people solve problems? What other careers might be good for you besides architecture? Is a creative problem solver different from a regular problem solver?
  • What is the difference between being creative and pragmatic? Which one are you?


  1. Design problem: Individually, draw a building that can house 500 people, 25 dogs, and 5 indoor pools. You have 10 minutes. Discuss your drawing with your table partner.
  2. Whose solutions are creative, pragmatic or both? How do you know?
  3. Did you draw what you first envisioned? What does envision mean to you after solving this problem?

Another example:

SHOMroom: Understand Our World

Define “understand art worlds” and “understand our world” before watching Alex Dang’s poetic ArtCore video. We discussed his technique for expressing himself through poetry and the art world of poetry.


  • Write 3-line poem about your “art world”. This is open-ended.
  • Volunteers share with class

Extension opportunity: (as adapted from

Watch the Birds in Snow video 

SHOMroom: Observe

Define “observe” and watch Mark Clarke’s video on painting. In the video, the late painter, Mark Clarke, explains the beauty of embracing the surprise in art and the wonder it brings to take time and stop observe the world around you.


  • Show slideshow of cropped pictures from a “road trip” (see our own example here. We encourage you to make your own to share with your students)
  • Flip through images every few seconds, and ask students to keep their thoughts to themselves until the second or third flip through. At that point, allow one student to share one guess for each image.
  • On the third or fourth time through, ask one student to make a guess about where the road tripper began and where they ended, citing evidence gathered through observation skills.
  • Finally, discuss how else we use our observation skills in class and outside of school- vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste.

            The best part about a SHOMroom is that it can easily be adapted to your class’ needs. Perhaps tests are coming up and you want to take extra time talking about “engage and persist” or you want to begin a Friday “reflection” time to end the week thoughtfully. SHOMrooms don’t have to be held during the first part of the day, either. They can replace or add to your warm up, fit in after lunch to help students refocus or even round out the day. Maybe you implement SHOMroom Fridays — it’s your choice. Like other thinking strategies and habits, the SHOM take practice. Recent research shows that some mindfulness skills, especially good observation, may lead to future creative performance. The SHOM can fit in during everyday learning and brief bursts of SHOM can help you and your team utilize a common language that helps motivate students to be critical and original thinkers. Now its your turn...what would your ideal SHOMroom lesson be?  

Check out our supporting teacher's guide here for the three listed above and look for new SHOMroom activities as we add them to our resource page.  

Why We Remember: The Arts' Support for Retention and Retrieval

You know that the arts are enjoyable, motivating and freeing for students, but did you know that it’s actually helping them remember information more effectively?

In their paper, “Why Arts Integration Improves Long-Term Retention of Content”, researchers Rinne, Gregory, Yarmolinskyaya and Hardiman (2011) assert that arts integration strategies can help aid the retention of information, taking advantage of the effects of long term memory by commiting information to memory in a lasting way. The authors present the results they found in their recent study that showed students who participated in the arts integrated science lessons “outperformed their peers on standard measures of academic achievement." Hardiman and colleagues found that arts integration “benefits [student] general cognition through improvement of executive attention” (p. 89). Though not conclusive the authors suggest that students gain skills that transfer beyond the arts to other academic domains.

These long term effects on retention result from several well-studied qualities intrinsic to learning through the arts, including: (a) rehearsal, (b) elaboration, (c) generation, (d) enactment, (e) oral production, (f) effort after meaning, (g) emotional arousal, and (h) pictorial representation. Even if you don’t generally call the school spelling bee ‘oral production’ or discussing a photo in the textbook ‘pictorial representation’, it is likely that your students engage in many of these effects in some manner throughout the school year. The question is – are students engaging with these effects in a manner most conducive to them committing information to memory? 

Let’s take a minute to review these eight qualities of arts integration learning and see how they might be transformed into classroom strategies.

What students once crammed into their short term memory for a test can become a part of who they are as learners and the toolbox of information they can draw from as they meet future challenges. A winning combination of arts integration and engaging instructional design strategies can provide our students a way to relate what they are learning to their own life experiences for a more lasting imprint.