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Arts Integration in Canada: America's Wake Up Call

Without arts integration, America, like most developed nations, will not succeed nor survive in the new global Innovative Economy, an economy that demands creativity and innovation in the workplace.
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All the action integrating the arts into the K-12 curriculum is already well underway, in Canada.

Yes, in good old Toronto, the place Peter Ustinov once called "New York run by the Swiss", meaning that Toronto is a big city (like New York City), but that it's cleaner and more efficient (as if run by the Swiss). But of course, Canadians -- who clearly deserve our admiration -- actually run it.

There are of course a lot of other reasons to admire this city which is the cultural, entertainment and financial capital of Canada, and home to more than 2.7 million people, but now another accolade can be added: It has one of the most comprehensive art integration efforts reinventing education in the world.

The Royal Conservatory of Music based in Toronto, launched "Learning Through the Arts" (LTTA), almost 20 years ago, and they can claim the high ground when talking about preparing the workforce of the future.

According to Donna Takacs, Managing Director of LTTA, "programs are being implemented across Canada, in (a few places) the US and in about a dozen other countries... LTTA is one of the most extensive differentiated instruction programs in the world."

While the term art integration, often referred to as art infusion, is not well known or accepted, it is really about an interdisciplinary education using the tools of the arts.

As a unique consortium of arts organizations expressed it in a report called "Authentic Connections," such interdisciplinary work in the arts enabled students to "identify and apply authentic connections, promote learning by providing students with opportunities between disciplines and/or to understand, solve problems and make meaningful connections within the arts across disciplines on essential concepts that transcend individual disciplines."

According to the Arts Education Partnership in Washington, D.C., the concept "has evolved over the past 15 years as school districts, state arts councils, and arts organizations have experimented with various models of implementation." Yet as the Partnership noted, "Some programs and schools have chosen not to use the term at all, although descriptions of the curriculum appear to belong in this domain. Much work in the arts professional journals that could be termed integrative is labeled interdisciplinary, perhaps because, as noted in a review of the practice, "the term evokes less controversy and challenge from within the arts professions."

This is sad. Because arts integration works and the LTTA program proves it. All LTTA's programs are underpinned by academic research, which show that LATT students score considerably higher in math tests than non-LATT students. Literacy tests also improved, student engagement increased and dropout rates declined.

LTTA has done a lot of work rethinking the curriculum, and now includes lesson plans for:

· History Through Role Playing
· Multiplication Through Songwriting
· Math/Geometry lesson plans Through Visual Arts
· Social Studies lesson plans Through Storytelling
· Social Studies lesson plans Through In-Role Writing
· Science lesson plans Through Dance
· History Through Documentary Photography and Video
· Structures and Mechanisms Through Building Scale Models
· Language Arts lesson plans Through Global Percussion

The message for America is clear.

Without arts integration, America, like most developed nations, will not succeed nor survive in the new global Innovative Economy, an economy that demands creativity and innovation in the workplace.

As demand for a new workforce to meet the challenges of a global knowledge economy rapidly increase few things could be as important in this period of our nation's history--or Canada's -- than art and art-infused education.

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