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Curriculum Integration

        Current theory suggests that all learning is inextricably linked. Howard Gardner, in Frames of Mind, states that the purpose of education is for understanding demonstrated by the ability to use learned information in new situations, transferring between disciplines. Brain research indicates abundant connections between lobes, regions, levels and hemispheres. Daniel Siegel (The Developing Mind) describes how relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. Renate and Geoffrey Caine (see Brain/Mind Learning Capacities in Research) reveal that interconnectedness is key to creating an enriched learning environment. Conclusions of these current examinations lead educators to recognize that an interdisciplinary approach (i.e., integrating the curriculum) will achieve academic success. Curriculum integration, then, should be the aspiration of all teachers. Besides, teaching students to generalize across disciplines is required to face new challenges in our world of rapid change and increasing knowledge.

          In Teaching With the Brain In Mind, Eric Jensen writes, "Complex thematic patterns emerge after the brain has gathered sufficient deata with which to make a meaningful context. Pattens can be forged and constructed only when enough essential "base" information is already known. As a result, thematic curriculum may be more useful to older students than younger ones." " For younger students, learning has simply got to be hands-on, experiential, and relevant for patterns to develop."

          While research points to the efficacy of curriculum integration, it distinguishes its application as relative to child development. The implication is that theme setting and abstract thinking will not work well for elementary children. There are other appropriate approaches, however, and some are presented here in these articles (which also appear on the Articles page).

"Total Literacy/HOT Readers" - Dr. Susan Snyder. Total Literacy/HOT Readers is a literacy approach for emergent and early readers developed at Lyman School in Middlefield, CT. Literacy is the goal, and music and movement are infused into the reading curriculum.
 "Integrating the Arts into the 4th and 5th Grade Classroom - Dr. Susan Snyder.  A Primer for Classroom Teachers.
"Integrating With Integrity: Music Across the Curriculum" - Dr. Susan Snyder
"From Fairy Tale to Opera: A Step-by-Step Approach" - Sharon Blecher and Kathy Jaffee, from their book Weaving in the Arts: Widening the Learning Circle.

          For the classroom, the point of integration is to help students understand the connections of learning. While most integration models support the coexistence and relationships of various subject areas, the Facets Model below makes the artwork itself the primary point of study.

          The concept of placing the art work itself at the core of study led to the creation of a model that embraces a comprehensive view of artistic works: the Facets Model. You can view this model in the Word document The Arts in Curricular Integration.
          The model encourages interacting with a work from many perspectives, or facets, that are posed in the form of questions. Facets can relate to the context in which the work was created (who created it? when and where was it created? why and for whom was it created?) to the properties of the work itself (what does it sound or look like? what kind of form or structure does it have?); and to the individual's experience with the work and the meanings it conveys (what is its subject? what is being expressed?). One question posed by the model relates to the properties of the work to its range of meanings (what techniques did its creator use to help us understand what is being expressed?).
          Here is an example of the model in action in a project emphasizing expressive dimensions of children's literature.
          Eric Carle's imaginative, wordless picture book, I See a Song, serves as a springboard for children's creative responses using sounds, words, and images to express a range of ideas. (Eric Cale, I See a Song (New York: Scholastic, 1973). First, the teacher encourages children to think about the maestro's preface on the title page, "I see a song; I paint music; I hear color," by asking them "What does this mean? How do these illustrations fit with the maestro's curious statements? Can you see a song, paint music, and hear color?"
          For example, children:
          - Write a poem using figures of speech and vivid adjectives and adverbs to portray the gradual infusion of color. Extend to Haiku.
          - Explore color value and hue with students as they layer colored tissue paper to construct a collage of thickening texture using a technique similar to Carle's.
          - Can exhibit expressive qualities of the artwork through movement
          - Can exhibit expressive qualities of the artwork through vocal and found sounds.