As an elementary art educator, at the beginning of each school year an initiation of communication between myself and the elementary teachers was had, involving what their learning goals were for our students. This opening of communication led to many more interdisciplinary collaborations, “synergistic effects”, between their classrooms, which led them away from staying “within the insular world” of their own rooms. My goal, in this, was to understand the units that students were studying in the primary classroom environment, through math and science mainly, and to weave it “in a manner that interrelated” into what I wanted students to take away from the art room as well. (Adams, 360) It was a personal goal to ‘link up’ the chain of reasoning within their minds and build relationships between other disciplines and teachers along the way.
When I designed my lessons, they were to be built upon each other, not in the same school year but spanning the students’ elementary careers, making each concept a little bit harder each time they reviewed it, much like learning basic principles in any subject. By including, integrating, other disciplines within my curriculum (reading, writing, math, history, science) and referencing them as I taught basic art fundamentals and principles, I found that more students left my classroom “with a deeper understanding of the subject matter” (Adams, 360) and attributed (verbally by many older students) their learning (and testing) in other areas to this approach.
All of life is a matter of modification, in the ways that we learn the information that gets through our senses to our processing brain. “When attempting to implement social change”, such is as what interdisciplinary education is trying to do for the betterment of our students, what could be more right than involving “as many different disciplines as possible”? (Adams, 362) The simple facts are that when students start connecting basic ideas, the neurons in their brains start firing at more rapid a pace. They immediately want to know more because they can grasp the information - it has become important to them.
Also, if we involve ourselves, as educators, in the learning of concepts within other subject areas, other than our own, and modify our scope to step across those boundaries that separate to show that the information matters and why it matters, it will become something that matters to our students as well. But, only once the conversation has begun between educators of the disciplines, and a “personal commitment and ownership to the idea” (Adams, 367) of interdisciplinary education is formed, will the results spread like wildfire throughout the school, the district, the community and the surrounding area.By helping our students understand their “sense of purpose” in their learning, they will go on to thrive, create and breathe goodness into every day they live. (Adams, 359) When and if students are given the chance by adults to shine with their own unique talents and explore topics that are near and dear to their hearts, while learning the significance of these topics as it relates to them, the more information will be learned and the easier it will be for them to learn it - learning that lasts lifetimes in their memories. When we “choose social issues that relate directly to students’ lives and approach issues on levels that they would understand” (Adams, 361) it becomes an investment in the future of our world as we know it. For, when we understand, we can change things for the better. If we do not understand, everything stays the same.
Contemporary Issues in Art Education; Yvonne Gaudelius, Peg Speirs; Prentice Hall; Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458; 2002