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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Through the prism

June 26, 2011

What do you see when you look through a prism? The scientific explanation is simply that a prism refracts light allowing a spectrum of colors to be seen. Really what you see are different colors, perhaps changing your perspective or the way you view an object.

The prism was the metaphor introduced at last week's forum on arts integration hosted by the Phillips Collection. The main question of "Teaching Through the Prism" was how and why the arts — both performing and visual — can be used to enhance K-12 education. There's ample evidence to support broad implementation. It works.

A recent report from the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, which cites both foundational studies and longitudinal research, makes a compelling argument that is hard to ignore.

The bottom line is that by using the arts in tandem with content areas, the achievement gap is lessened and test scores go up. And, it seems likely to make learning more fun for both children and adults.

Forum participants got to experience art integration activities with "experiment stations" that were facilitated by practitioners (both teacher mentors and museum educators). Everything from "Scientific Observation and Artistic Inspiration with Paul Klee" to "My Story in Pictures and Words, 'The Migration Series' [by Jacob Lawrence] as Autobiography" (plus a lot more) made arts integration real and doable.

The ideas presented are not specific to the Phillips or big cities; they are adaptable for literally any classroom. And of course, the potential to use books to expand, enhance, and enlarge myriad ideas and concepts with and for children is ever-present.

Summer is a natural time to visit with the arts and artists, visual and performing, live or remotely (through film or online, for example). It just may change the way we learn — adults and children alike — now and all year long.

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