"Arts Integration" is a big movement in education these days, pushed to the forefront by great organizations like Turnaround Arts and The Kennedy Center. Fundamentally, the idea with arts integration is to utilize instruction in the arts - music, dance, theater, visual art - to connect with core academic subjects like language arts, math, and science. This approach has shown to be effective for many students, who can learn and explore core subjects more creatively, rather than learning by rote or more traditional forms of instruction. In effect, music (or visual art, or dance, or theatre) is the "hook" that gets kids engaged and more interested in succeeding at school.
Here at Dancing Drum, we've been focusing for many years on how to integrate core academics into our drumming programs. When we began Dancing Drum in California in 2002, virtually all music education had been cut from public schools. In effect, administrations had deemed music too unimportant for time or funding during the school day. This was a sad situation for many students. We felt that we needed core academic integration to justify our presence in the schools and developed curriculum materials to make connections between drumming and subjects like math, reading, social studies, and character education. Teachers, administrators, and students embraced our approach and we felt that it was a success!
Today, the idea of arts integration has gained more traction, as has the value of music education. More educators are talking about the value of music for music's sake, not just for the arts integration opportunities that it provides. There's also a robust and growing field of arts integration, with conferences and specialists devoted to sharing ideas and best practices, and research that shows its efficacy.
Earlier this summer, Dancing Drum was honored by an invitation to present at the Turnaround Arts Summer Institute at the Arlie Center in Virginia, a sprawling, historic farm and retreat center just a few miles from Washington DC. Our session, titled "Teach to the Beat! Enliven Classroom Instruction Through Rhythms & Chants", was attended by 30+ enthusiastic arts integration specialists from schools across the country, from Connecticut to Hawaii. During our hands-on session, we demonstrated the basics of leading drumming activities in the classroom, and led participants in their first experience of "rhythmatizing" a nonfiction text. This workshop focused on language arts, reading comprehension, and summarizing themes in an article about British scientist Jane Goodall, which we then turned into a rhythm and song on the drums.
"Turnaround" schools are among the lowest performing schools in the country. Schools that adopt the "Turnaround Arts" model for school improvement are committed to bettering their schools through an intense regimen of arts integration. In the first three years of Turnaround Arts, they've produced impressive outcomes, like a 22.55% improvement in math proficiency and a 12.62% improvement in reading. Discipline and attendance statistics have also improved significantly, and it's inevitable that the energy at these schools has overwhelmingly shifted towards positive, uplifting, and happy, which couldn't be better for students and their learning outcomes.
For more information on Turnaround Arts and their evaluation report, visit this link: http://turnaroundarts.pcah.gov/impact/