Engaging through the Arts

Engaging through the Arts

Story and photos were contributed by Claire Kelly, an education major at the University of Illinois.

Cara Maurizi, a music teacher at King Elementary in Urbana, and Lisa Ferguson, a first grade teacher at the same school, believe the arts are essential to education. The two teamed up on a grant proposal to connect Next Generation Science Standards with the arts. They developed lessons in five subject areas, and each lesson fuses art, literacy and science. Last October, their proposal was funded through the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation’s I.D.E.A. Grant program.

I have been using an inquiry based learning model to allow students to generate questions and discover through experience.  It has really opened up a new way of teaching music that is exciting.  I am learning just as much as the students! -Cara Maurizi

As part of one of the lessons, students experimented to figure out how sounds and music are created. Maurizi and Ferguson used a portion of their grant funds to purchase instruments that make sound in different ways. They designed activities to build analysis skills and enable students to guide their own learning. Through active exploration, performance, reading, writing and science experimentation, the students researched and evaluated their work.

On the day I visited the classroom, Maurizi and Ferguson separated instruments into three different categories: things you STRIKE, things you SHAKE, and things you STRUM. The children were not told these categories and they were required to test instruments to determine how they were making noise. The students used meaningful questions and inquiry methods, rather than passive listening.

When we used the drums, we used our hands. We learned that the sound vibrates. -Jhan’yae, first grade student

The students were involved and interested in the activities. They were excited to play with the instruments and learn more about them. All the children wanted to try each instrument to determine what the noise was and how it was being made. Through the children’s excitement, it became clear to me that music is an important subject for students to learn about and experience. Maurizi and Ferguson are teaching children about music in a way that gets them involved and interested.

Together, with the materials we received through the grant, we are able to take each of our strengths and work together to create something very meaningful for our students.  We both know that students don’t learn content just one way, ​and integrating the arts, literacy, and science content areas help students learn more in depth. -Lisa Ferguson

The two teachers hope their lessons will be replicated by other classroom and fine arts teachers.