There are multiple ways you can integrate art into your unit of inquiry. You can incorporate it as an expression of human creativity and imagination, or as a form of communication. The latter is the method used in my school’s Program of Inquiry in our ‘How We Express Ourselves’ unit in Year 4.
After categorizing artworks into 1D, 2D, 3D, and 4D dimensional formats, the students saw that art is deeply woven into human life. They saw, for instance, 2D art as accompanying illustrations in every chapter in their school books and 3D creations in their own classroom – items that they usually sit and write on without giving much thought to them. Although that was already a fun eye-opening phase of their UOI, what followed was even more exciting. The students came to a realization that art is a form of communication that transcends cultural and language barriers. One excellent example is the art of illustration or pictures. Trying, with shaky results, to decipher written public signs in foreign languages, they immediately realized that the internationally used text-less picture signs in public places such as airports are a brilliant use of art that is also very effective to convey messages to people from different cultures who speak different languages. As my classroom is currently a home to children of five different nationalities, they discovered that art was also a way to help them understand each other better.
The next excitement was when the students found other purposes of art such as to preserve a civilization’s history, a cultural identity, a standard for beauty, and a medium for product marketing. It was a truly wonderful learning experience for both the students and myself.
At the end of the Unit of Inquiry, I found that integrated art is a superb tool to develop the students’ Communicator and Open-minded profiles. The possibilities for classroom activities where students have to strategize ways of communicating ideas, feelings, or even instructions are limitless and students always come out of every activity with more understanding, with the occasional admiration, of each other and of different cultures.
Meidiana, Year 4 teacher, Jakarta Multicultural School (firstname.lastname@example.org)