What is Artful Learning?

Artful Learning is an instructional model that stimulates and deepens academic learning through the Arts. It allows students to use the Arts as windows into every content area. Students use arts-based strategies as tools for exploring interdisciplinary content and expressing what they have learned. 

The Artful Learning model is defined by four main quadrants: EXPERIENCE, INQUIRE, CREATE and REFLECT. These four areas encourage and support best teaching practice while improving student and teacher learning. Hillcrest classrooms systematically employ the four quadrants to strengthen understanding, retention, and application.

Artful Learning Quadrants

Students experience and respond to a large Concept using a Masterwork (art, music, drama, dance, scientific innovation, architecture, literature, mathematical formula, etc.) and respond through sight, sound and movement. Serving as a catalyst for immediate student engagement, the Masterwork awakens ideas, emotions and new understandings through visual, auditory and kinesthetic modalities. Students leave this phase curious and wanting to know more

Students begin a substantive investigation triggered by questions and observations generated by the Masterwork experiences. A Significant Question guides the inquiry. Students employ a variety of research techniques and hands-on explorations, using the interdisciplinary content to investigate the subject matter even more deeply.

Students design and complete an Original Creation – a tangible, artistic manifestation that synthesizes and demonstrates their understanding of their newly acquired knowledge. By focusing on how best to represent the academic content from their unit of study, students’ thinking moves from divergent to convergent. They first construct a prototype, then continue to evaluate and revise their work until their final product, the Original Creation, is ready for presentation.

Students ponder the journey they have taken through the Unit of Study and ask Deepening Questions about what and how they learned. They document this process through detailed narratives, maps, and metaphors. Students discover new ideas and connections while also considering practical applications of their new knowledge. Going through the process in the Unit of Study, students have acquired valuable new skills which will help them become more self-directed as learners.

How it Works

Trainers from the Leonard Bernstein Center work with the Hillcrest staff to implement this art instruction model based on Bernstein’s belief that the process of experiencing the arts provides a fundamental way to instill a lifelong love of learning in children.

The experience, inquire, create and reflect model starts with a Masterwork experience. Students learn about a painting, photograph, song or other human achievements - not limited to the arts - that has exerted influence over time. This immediate engagement leaves students curious to learn more.

The Significant Question guides the inquiry and students use a variety of art and research strategies to delve into the content. As students inquire, new understandings develop and connections are made.

The students then design an Original Creation - a tangible, artistic manifestation that demonstrates their understanding of the new knowledge - and share it with the community. Finally, students reflect on their learning. This process is documented through narratives, maps and metaphors that enable students to make connections to their lives and the world around them.

Hillcrest teachers have completed the full course of Artful Learning training and mapped their standards to develop interdisciplinary units and create inquiry centers for learning. Teachers have been introduced to more than 30 arts-based strategies that are infused across the curriculum for increased student understanding and cognitive development. The training transforms instruction; it is rigorous and renewing, intense and inspiring. Students at Hillcrest enjoy Artful Learning units in the fall, winter, and spring.

Artful Learning Units of Study

Artful Learning schools are joyful, active, engaged learning communities where parents, teachers, and students come together to explore the great achievements, big ideas, and perplexities of human thought.  State or district-mandated standards form the core of the teacher-designed Artful Learning Units of Study and are brought to life through arts-infused, inquiry-based learning.  Students consider universal concepts, actively explore masterworks, investigate, research and create a wide variety of materials and strategies.  Reflection focused on deepening the learning encourages students to make connections across disciplines, understand their own learning process and set goals for future learning. Artful Learning classrooms cover the mandated curriculum and exceed it.

The success of the program hinges on the development of partnerships to support our arts integration efforts. If you are interested in partnering with Hillcrest, please contact Principal Don Gramenz at dgramenz@isd271.org.