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An integrated learning experience.

Involving many different subject areas makes learning more meaningful to students. They gain a complete picture of the subject studied instead of scattered bits and pieces of information. The fifth grade social studies curriculum in our school is the perfect vehicle for integrating the studio art, art history, library science, social studies and computer literacy programs.

The social studies unit on ancient civilizations was the basis for this lesson and included a comprehensive history of ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece. Simultaneously, in art history, the students studied the art related to these cultures. This knowledge of ancient art history is essential in understanding past cultures, how they lived, what they ate and what they wore. Through reproductions, slides, filmstrips and discussion, we presented the art as an accurate account of the history of these cultures. During this process, we encouraged students to become interested in specific areas that they might want to research. The range of interests varied and students were anxious to get started on their research. Questions about reasons for the ancient traditions, theories of their beliefs, and specific art techniques for projects were waiting to be answered and these students couldn't wait to get started.

The first step in their investigation was in the library. There students used the encyclopedia, reference books and nonfiction collection to fill notecards on their topics. Students then organized their notecards into outlines and wrote speeches to present to their homeroom classes. A computer-printed paragraph describing each student's work of art and the research and technique involved accompanied the artwork in the final festival where all works were displayed.

With the topic decided and research compiled, students were ready to begin their studio art projects. Choosing a medium appropriate to their idea was especially important. Students looked into the possibilities of two-dimensional works, such as drawing, painting and maps, and three-dimensional sculptures and dioramas. The finished projects included an Egyptian wall painting, a sculpture of Theseus, a diorama of Egyptian transportation, a map of ancient Rome, a model of the Parthenon and a sketch of Medusa. One creative and ambitious student wrote and directed a video-play on Greek democracy.

Organization is a major factor in a project like this. Because of the diversity of materials and methods used by students, giving each individual student the attention and guidance needed was at times difficult. Once everyone was organized and underway, it was smooth sailing. One of the most beneficial learning experiences occurred when adult help was not available and students had to struggle with materials and search out a new technique when first attempts failed. The reward was personal success and satisfaction through the student's discovery. It is important to have a plentiful supply of materials, clay, paint, papier-mache, paris craft, hammers and nails, along with a resourceful supply of recycled goodies--boxes, boards, containers, newspapers and bottles for this project.

The artroom became a studio in every sense of the word during this unit of study. Students filled up every nook and cranny, painting, hammering and constructing until the studio looked like the findings of an archaeological dig. Students worked hard to make the deadline and awaited the ancient civilization festival, a gala affair, with anticipation.

Invitations to the festival were sent to parents, and preparations to transform the assembly room into an art gallery began when all artwork was just about completed. Large visuals of King Tutankhamen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art added to the atmosphere of the exhibit. Display boards, tables for large three-dimensional works, and columns for sculpture were set up with the students' assistance. When the day came, students arrived at school as Roman soldiers, Greek gods and Egyptian mummies. Parents came, can]eras in hand, and were given personal tours of the exhibit by their children.

Planning, a primary element in integrating courses, began early for this project. Goals and objectives were defined, specific lessons designed, and arrangements for the final exhibit and evaluations planned and agreed upon by the faculty involved. Teachers pooled their resources and talents for this exciting project. The enthusiasm sparked by the involvement of working together was not only stimulating for teachers, but also heightened the students' level of interest. Two very important aspects of this program were its encouragement of student interaction in learning from each other and the need for students to work independently.

Jackie Armstrong is the art teacher and Kristina Landi, the librarian, at Gulman School, Baltimore, Maryland.
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Author:Landi, Kristina
Publication:School Arts
Date:Feb 1, 1990
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