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Using art to enhance learning

Posted on Dec. 27, 2018

RIVERDALE GRADE SCHOOL – Art teacher Liz Randall makes a point of creating projects related to her students’ math, science or social studies lessons. These may include botanical drawings, animated simple machines or creative visual representations of insects, fish, flags and cities.

"Usually the project will talk about an element of what they are learning in class and they will be visually depicting that," she says. "This is also tied to art standards because they need to see how art connects to the rest of the world." 

For example, the 2nd grade is studying Northwest Coast Native Americans and researching the tribes in each region. Throughout this unit, the 2nd grade teachers focused on the overarching question, "How did the land influence a culture?" Students learned about the common characteristics of the Northwest environment and how Native Americans used the land for food, transportation, shelter and tools. They read Native legends and crafted button blankets to represent their own made-up versions. They also made cedar-bark rubbings while discovering the many different uses for this version of the tree of life. 

Concurrently, Mrs. Randall taught students about the specific art style these tribes used, including shapes, colors and symbolism. Then she helped students create individual sections of a totem pole that were assembled into one large pole. Students also worked on a second, smaller totem with their classroom teachers that featured animals to symbolize their family members. 

Next time you ask your student about their studies, remember to ask how their art connects to their classroom learning.

two construction paper totem poles on either side of door