Integrating Art Into Other Content Areas

Here are some ideas to help add an art lesson to every math, science, social studies, or language arts unit.

By Wendy Haagenson


Integrating Art into Other Content Areas

With so many standards to teach, high-stakes testing, and pressure to make sure that there is “no child left behind,” it’s no wonder that the arts get lost in the midst of the busy school day. Here are some ideas to help bring art back into your classroom.

Combining Art and Math

In kindergarten, many art projects involve math. For example, if students are sorting pasta, they might then glue the different types of pasta onto construction paper and make a “pasta picture.” Students may make a bead necklace to reinforce patterning. For the upper elementary classroom, making a beaded necklace can become a great lesson on fractions or decimals. Geometry naturally lends itself to art. Students can create paper mache shapes or even Christmas ornaments while studying polyhedrons. At any age, tessellations are fascinating and fun. Young students can color tessellations, while older students can create their own.

Delve Into Scientific Drawings

I love using art to review. If your class is studying plant life, why not have students draw and label the parts of a flower, rather than having them label a worksheet? Not only is it a mean to the same end, but it also encourages creativity. When teaching a science unit on the different biomes, I asked my class to create a postcard sent from each biome we had studied. The front of the post card had to be a colorful, accurate, and detailed hand-drawn scene of the landscape in that biome and the back had to contain important facts. My students loved this creative project and they also did very well on their science test because of the fun review.

Learn About Artists

As part of every social studies unit, I try to include the biography and a few pieces of art from an artist who lived during that time period. Even if you spend just thirty minutes discussing the life of a famous (or lesser known) artist, your students will gain bits and pieces of knowledge about the art world. If time allows, students can create their own art piece in the same style that the artist is known for.

Art-Related Vocabulary and Using Higher-Level Thinking

If you teach your students the vocabulary of the art world, you’ll find it easier to frequently discuss art with them. I’ve seen very young students that were able to talk about the lines, shapes, and textures found in nature while doing an unrelated outdoors science activity. Since these kindergarteners knew the vocabulary, they were able to look at the world from an artistic perspective. Once students are familiar with the vocabulary, you can teach them to analyze the art around them. Having students critique art is a great way to encourage higher-level thinking. The class can analyze the pictures in their social studies book, the cover of a class novel, or a piece that you bring into the classroom. What follows are more lessons to integrate art into other content areas.

Art Lessons:

Platonic Solids Ornaments

This lesson in which students create an ornament or mobile made from three-dimensional shapes is written for older students, but can easily be modified for students of any age.

Tantalizing Tessellations

Students create their own tessellations using rotational transformation.

Michelangelo Art

Not only do students get to learn about the famous artist Michelangelo in this lesson, but they also get to experience what it may have been like for him to paint the Sistine Chapel while laying on his back.

Brine Shrimp Life Cycle

This science lesson on brine shrimp has students draw and label the body parts of a brine shrimp.