Dive Brief:

  • Art works can act as vehicles to learning about historical events, wrote seventh grade U.S. history teacher Ron Litz for Edutopia, who outlined three ways educators can use art work as a teaching tool in a history class.
  • To start, educators may want to select pieces of art that students already know. That can be either a specific work, such as a famous painting, or a better known format, such as a political cartoon. Next, teachers should offer an interpretation of the art work, and then give students a chance to analyze the work on their own. Educators can suggest students look at details from color used in the work, to symbolism employed as well.
  • Third, educators can then ask how a piece of art reflects the time it represents in its subject matter, and what the artist chose to emphasize. Students may also want to analyze additional pieces of art, to consider how other artists portrayed that same moment similarly or differently.

Dive Insight:

An arts curriculum provides students more than just time to create. There are positive outcomes in integrating the subject into the curriculum, including gains in school readiness. But because access to an arts education is declining for some students, weaving art in existing classes could help to support its continuation. That’s a path schools may need to consider as education budgets start to tighten from the impact of COVID-19.

As Edutopia noted in its story, history is an excellent subject that dovetails neatly with art and art history. Whether they’re creating sculptures, or writing plays, artists select subjects from the world around them, often revealing something about the time in which a piece is created.

Theater, for example, can enhance core academic subjects including English, but also history too, as a 2020 paper found, noting that students who had theater integrated into their history classes, showed “enthusiasm for learning about history” as well as “historical empathy,” wrote researchers from the University of Missouri, Walton Arts Center and Texas A&M University.

Teachers can work art and art history into remote learning too, by creating grab and go arts supplies that families can pick up with their grab and go meals, or by adopting art digital tools.

With the impact of COVID-19 still being felt throughout the country, these tools can help to support an arts education in schools, while enhancing academic subjects as well.

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