Cultivate a school environment in which arts learning can thrive.

School environments should ensure that students can engage equitably in arts learning, just as in all other subjects. The arts can be integrated into schools through the physical environment, instructional practices, or a school’s systems, processes and culture. This includes providing adequate time for arts learning, as well as appropriate and well-maintained art spaces and materials.

When learning in and through the arts can be seen and heard throughout the school building—through student murals or collages displayed on walls, band practice overheard in hallways, and student poetry featured prominently in the building— this reinforces the development of a school culture that values the arts and creative thinking. When the arts become integral to a school and its identity, arts programs may also be less threatened by outside pressures such as funding or other school priorities (like standardized testing).

Principle in practice

A student paints one of several murals illustrating the Studio Habits of Mind at Oaklea Middle School.

At Oaklea Middle School in Junction City, Lane Arts Council teaching artist Betsy Wolfston worked with teachers and school leaders to reclaim an art classroom that had fallen out of use following budget cuts that shrunk school staff and programs significantly in the early 2000s.

The project brought a plethora of new, high-quality arts materials back to the school, while developing students’ and teachers’ comfort with these materials to support Studio Habits of Mind (Develop Craft, Engage & Persist, Envision, Express, Observe, Reflect, Stretch & Explore, Understand Art Worlds). Classrooms throughout the school were transformed as students used these creative habits to excel in language arts, science exploration, service learning and other disciplines.

School leaders and teachers incorporated more arts learning time into the school schedule and curricula, and an instructional assistant was hired to help manage the studio space and support teachers in furthering arts integration.

The school walls are now filled with art by students and teachers, including multiple student murals illustrating how Oaklea students embody the Studio Habits of Mind.

When the kids started working [on the murals], the school became alive and students had a new awareness of their own possibility. As one seventh grader said, “In life people are doing these cool things, but I didn’t think I would be doing it myself!” Art is lifting up the students and the entire school, stimulating their imagination to pursue ideas. We all share a commitment to bolster arts education at this school.
—Project team journal

Other principles illustrated here include: