How do you weave creativity into the fabric of school curriculum? School leaders are tasked with this expectation in order to prepare our students for the demands of 21st century workforce skills. But how can this be accomplished?

As the arts integration officer of Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland, it is the duty of my office to implement arts-integration strategies throughout this very large school system. Our philosophy allows creativity to be the basis for teaching, learning and problem-solving.

To implement this approach, we ensure that our staff has the risk-taking mindset, creative leadership and flexibility to exemplify the art-integration teaching method.

The district’s strategy for systemic change is broken down into three phases:

  • Use a school-by-school approach to build upon the arts-integration community
  • Empower the Professional Learning Communities at each school through diverse, but targeted professional development
  • Utilize the resources in the educational and arts communities to build creative capacity of the teams.

Take a School-by-School Approach

We have taken a school-by-school approach to create model arts-integration schools. There are currently 65 schools participating in the art-integration program in a system of over 200 schools.

Each of our model schools must have a committed school leader and a Professional Learning Community (PLC), consisting of 6-10 teachers.

Empower the PLC

The PLC is responsible for assisting in creation of a school vision by charting a strategic course to transform the school into an arts-integration model. These schools have the freedom to develop strategies to meet the needs of their specific institution, allowing creativity to flourish and opportunities to engage in the creative process.

The challenging component is preparing teacher leaders and the PLC to lead by example to implement these arts-integration strategies to teach creativity across all subject areas. Empowerment of teacher leaders at the school is essential to whole school reform. Once these change-makers are prepared, they can begin the process of school-wide change.

To assist in this effort, we looked at many professional learning programs, and all of the models have teacher engagement in a hands-on multidisciplinary approach. What they were missing, is a way to change how teacher themselves learn. For arts-integration to be successful, teachers must learn the same way we expect the students to learn. They must leave their comfort zone and engage in, what for some, is risk-taking behavior.

Harness Communities

To accomplish this goal we have utilized many resources. Crayola’s creatED has arts-integration at its core. Providing ways for teachers to confront their fears about teaching creativity, strategies for building effective learning communities, and enlisting others in building a sustainable plan that all school stakeholders embrace. This goal is achieved by using visual arts to build a community of creative learners.

To supplement arts-integration instruction, teaching artists from John F. Kennedy Center, Young Audiences of Maryland, and the Wolf Trap Foundation have been invited to professional development days with staff, to bring creativity and enthusiasm that comes from being an artist.

This component takes professional learning beyond the Four C’s, to enhance the teaching mindset by using the arts as a means to an end in teaching overall concepts. Even our STEM teachers have realized through arts-integration that creative thinking serves as the basis for all learning.

Technology adds to this professional learning method as webinars and twitter chats are organized around the topic of teaching creativity. This provides teachers with the flexibility of learning based on their schedule and preferred use of collaborative technology.

Teaching students to be creative problem solvers begins with empowering their teachers. It is our goal to ensure that all teachers have the knowledge and creative confidence to incorporate throughout their teaching, allowing creative teaching to become creative learning.

When students are able to take ownership of their learning through visual, creative expression – that is when the most in-depth learning occurs.

About the Author:

John Ceschini is the arts integration officer for Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland. Previously serving as principal of two nationally recognized arts-integration schools, he received the National Arts Education Association’s Distinguished Service Award and an Innovator of the Year Award for his work to creatively expand arts-integration initiatives across the state.


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