TMC Education students
employ ARTS with learning
by Norm Miller
[ON the COVER: Jacquita Jackson not only reads a story, but leads young students to participate as characters in the story so as to dramatize it and increase the students' interest and comprehension.]
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews)--The gymnasium at Mossy Creek Elementary School in Cleveland, Ga., thumped with activity.
Children jumped up and down, counting loudly to 100 by 5s. They gleefully swirled a mixture of oil, water and glitter in clear plastic bottles. They carefully glued construction paper into the shape of Georgia. And they donned hats and hand puppets to dramatize a story.
Led by Truett-McConnell College students majoring in Early Childhood Education, Mossy Creek students used their intellectual creativity to learn principles of math, science, language arts and geography.
"It's intellectual thinking through the arts," said Dr. Sara Worley, associate professor of education at Truett-McConnell College.
Worley told TMCNews that educators in the US "actively seek ways to increase student thinking and motivation to stay in school. Integrating arts into school subjects is a method that accomplishes those objectives."
Though the concept may seem cutting-edge, Worley said this educational thinking or cognitive theory is known to most educators as Bloom's Taxonomy. In the 1950s, Bloom engaged his students at the University of Chicago in intellectual behavior to discover different types and levels of thinking.
Worley cited a 1990s study led by a student of Bloom's -- Lorin Anderson -- and said that "creative expression is the highest level of intellectual thinking. This is because students must utilize all levels of thinking when they create: memory, understanding, application and evaluation."
Explaining that statement, Worley noted that all people learn differently: "A child who needs movement to learn might miss understanding through traditional pen and paper methods. Arts integration -- music, drama, dance, drawing, building, observation, journaling and discovery -- require multiple ways of thinking. I believe it works because it engages the maximum number of learning styles and human senses at the same time."
"Learning styles are defined differently by different educators," said Worley, who summarized an internationally recognized definition created by Dunn and Dunn of the University of Arizona: "People learn by what they hear -- auditory; whole body movement -- kinesthetic; when they use their hands, tactile; and what they see -- visual-word and visual-pictures."
"Whether capturing math principles through movement to music, acting out a story with puppets, observing the density of different liquids in a plastic bottle or collaboratively creating a large map of Georgia out of scraps of colored paper," students are reached and students learn," Worley said.
"Joy is another amazing by-product," she added. "Just watching a group of students in one of these activities makes believers of observers."
One of the best examples of an organization using arts integration -- collecting ongoing research and actively involving schools and communities -- is the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE). CAPE published their methods in a creative text called: "Renaissance in the Classroom Arts Integration and Meaningful Learning" that Worley discovered on the Harvard University web site seven years ago.
Teaching arts integration concepts to her own students helps Worley show them that they, too, learn differently. Once her teacher candidates understand their own learning patterns, then they will recognize them in those whom they will some day teach, and that should help them be successful as teachers.
Dr. Angie Gant -- chair of Truett-McConnell's Education and Behavioral Science Division and associate professor of Education -- told TMCNews: "Because the Common Core Standards are being implemented in Georgia schools this year, all instructional strategies, including arts integration activities, that lead students to use higher-order thinking skills are beneficial for student success."
The Common Core State Standards Initiative web site posts the following as a mission statement: "The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy."
"Our teacher candidates at Truett-McConnell College work with such wonderful teachers in local schools, including Mossy Creek Elementary School," Gant added. "We are grateful to these schools and teachers who afford our students the valuable opportunities to employ these types of activities and see the results first-hand."
Worley said that "since arts programs are typically the first to be cut in school budgets, we want to find ways to keep high-level, creative intellectual behavior alive," Worley said. "Teaching future teachers the significance of arts in intellectual behavior, learning styles and the use of one's imagination is key."
Citing a notable intellectual with regard to using one's imagination, Worley noted Albert Einstein, who said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."
Norm Miller is director of communications and marketing for Truett-McConnell College.