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Danielle Michaelis Castillo

Art-making and arts integration in the classroom often involve experimentation with unknown variables and outcomes. This means we have to make a mind-shift away from art as a product and towards art as process.

What do we want children to learn through arts integration? Do we want them to engage in curiosity, experimentation, creativity, and problem solving? Or are we focused on the outcome of the art “product”? Learning through the arts engages children in the former – curiosity, experimentation, creativity and problem solving. In essence we are teaching children to think like an artist.

Consider Renaissance artist Leonardo Da Vinci. Perhaps best known for his painting of the Mona Lisa, he engaged in multidisciplinary studies including invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He conceptualized and experimented with flying machines and made important discoveries in the fields of anatomy, engineering and optics. In arts integration, we are not teaching children how to paint like Da Vinci; rather we are teaching them how to think like Da Vinci thought about the world – in an interdisciplinary manner with an emphasis on creative problem solving.

What does artist mindset look like in a classroom? Here is an example:

Kindergartners are learning about inventors and their inventions. During this unit of study, children make drawings of an idea for an invention that would help their community after a class discussion with their teacher. The students present their drawings in front of the class and then create a 3-D model of the invention using a variety of media such as paper, cardboard, painters tape, Styrofoam, pipe cleaners, and sticks. Students then create an exhibition of their models. Through this process children work on their problem solving skills through the artist mindset while thoughtfully engaging in the unit of study.