Great news!  This piece is being featured today over at the Americans for the Arts Blog as part of Arts in Education Week!  I feel humbled and appreciative for this opportunity.  Please spread the word as continue to make an impact as Artists within Education.

Transforming Common Core into Artful Practice

When was the last time that you listened to or watched The Sorcerer’s Apprentice?  The tale of the inquisitive, bold and dare I say “sneaky” apprentice who tempts fate by trying his own hand at magic is one that all of us can appreciate on some level.  After all, as educators and Arts advocates, creating magic is inherent to our craft.  Yet, as the apprentice discovers to his dismay, trying to replicate magic from a common book of spells without the understanding of the processes that weave the spells together only ends in disaster.

In terms of our current educational movement, I’m going to make a bold statement: it is time to transform knowledge into intentional artful practices.  This is at the heart of the Common Core State Standards.  Each of the skills identified build upon embedded practices woven in and through the Standards at all levels.  How better to address those artful practices than through the Arts? After all, the Arts are built upon a foundation of processes that transform into innovative works and products.  You cannot perform a choral piece or premiere a piece of work at an exhibition without both mastery of the skills of that artform. In addition to, an understanding of the processes that provide structure to the art itself.

The Common Core Standards place value in the “and” of the teaching and learning process: students must master the skills and demonstrate understanding of the processes that support those skills.  Knowledge transforms into practice here. Yet, it is difficult for teachers, administrators and even artists to translate that into their everyday teaching.  How does this happen?  Where is the link between the spells in the book and the actual magic produced?

The key here is the artful practices themselves.

The Common Core Math Standards, for instance, are based upon the 16 Habits of Mind and have a group of 8 Mathematical Practices that are woven into each grade level.  While the skills standards change for every grade, the 8 artful practices are the glue that holds the skills together.  This is difficult for many teachers to interpret and weave into their instruction.  They have become so used to “teaching to the test” that they have forgotten the craft of teaching itself.

As artists, we become the linchpin for moving the new Common Core Standards into integrated practice.  We share with our school community the artful processes needed to go from mastering basic skills to the development of creating new ideas and products.  For instance, we can make very clear and distinct connections to those math and artful practices through the 8 Habits of Mind for Studio Thinking.  Within our art classes or within a math class, students can engage and persist in problem-solving and making reflective choices within a project.

We directly connect to argumentative writing standards by bringing forward opportunities for our students to critique their work and the works of others.  And we seamlessly make these connections by sharing the work we do every day in our arts classes.  Students in arts classes thrive because they understand artistic skills and processes enough to know when to break the rules.  There is an intentional practice of “knowing” in an arts-centered class that can be a model and connecting access point for many other classes in the school community.

Let the magic begin.

We are in a time when it is imperative for our children to be creative thinkers who engage in collaborative efforts to push the boundaries of knowledge.  We want to move them from merely putting on the Sorcerer’s hat and waving their arms with skill to actually creating the magic. Artists and arts teachers are the curators of the practices that will enable our students to achieve and our teachers to facilitate their success.