For the past decade or so, the discussion surrounding “Common Core” and the “Core Knowledge” has been bandied about quite a bit. Perhaps you’ve seen the argument against it: namely that it is not especially interesting, is “derivative”, and doesn’t engage the natural interest of students. Or perhaps you are strongly in favor of it’s use, noting that these core concepts are foundational educational building blocks that, when presented in order, make educational outcomes more unilateral and prevent kids from missing broad swaths of academic material.
What if we told you both can be true? The Core Knowledge Curriculum (which you can find in it’s entirety online), is a building block curriculum that presents academic concepts in a layered way. It provides a clear roadmap of conceptual check points for teachers and other educational staff to use as a guideline for skill development over time. The easy way to use this structure is to take the paperwork, make a ton of copies, hand out a bunch of worksheets, and present it didactically from the front of the class in sequential order. This sort of presentation is how Core Knowledge Education gets a bad rep. At Wilmington School of the Arts, we have a totally different set of values when it comes to teaching this material. There is an opportunity in everything one does to study music, art, culture, and history. As a matter of fact, they are inextricably linked. Even the most base level academic concept can be utilized as a means for project-based, arts-integrated learning if you are willing to take the time to develop complex and holistic lesson plans.
Here’s an example: The second Kindergarten unit in the Core Knowledge Curriculum is “The Five Senses” and it comes with a set of simple, enjoyable lessons that follow this theme. One of the units covers Ray Charles and discusses how his abilities developed around and because of his blindness. Of course, this entire unit could be done through worksheets. Or, hear me out: it could be an amazing cultural and artistic journey that the students get to take with the primary teacher, and arts teachers working together cooperatively to round out their understanding, and honor many learning styles. A wonderful parallel theme for this unit would be “Black History”. In music class you could study Ray Charles and also other notable African-American musicians, music styles, and innovations. Visual arts could feature art work and art history that follows the theme, demonstarting the concepts of Sight, Touch, and Smell along the way. The classroom teacher could use literature, poetry, tactile math, history, and science that draws deeply upon “The Five Senses” within the “Black History” theme. During this process, open communication and shared planning allows for teachers to cooperatively teach similar concepts across different mediums. Truly integrative learning finds a way to show that every concept is interrelated, and that there is no part of learning or life that isn’t directly linked to the arts in some form.
Now, imagine that each unit all year long is developed thusly. That every type of learner is honored, and that every day is showing children how concepts connect to one another. That there is math in music, geometry in handwriting, science in the culinary arts, history in visual arts, rhythm in reading and writing, and so much more. This is how we, at Wilmington School of the Arts, plan to take simple concepts and a useful curriculum and turn it into a beautiful, educational tapestry that is enriched with Arts Education.
Wilmington School of the Arts building blocks for creativity