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At Urban Montessori Charter Schools, the Arts play an integral role in the Montessori classroom. Artistic concepts, processes and materials are presented daily in the prepared environment in order to engage children’s multiple intelligences. The Urban Montessori arts curriculum builds artistic skills in visual arts, music, movement and theater, while nurturing artistic habits of mind in all children ages K-8. Arts Integration provides children with opportunities to demonstrate understanding of science, language arts, math, history or cultural topics through creative and expressive projects, while ‘Art for Arts’ Sake’ helps children begin to explore and eventually master artistic skills like cutting, drawing, color mixing, rhythmic patterning, or choreographing dance scores. Both trajectories help Urban Montessori children develop a full sense of their artistic and intellectual strengths given this integrated, multi-faceted approach to learning, creating and communicating.
Arts integration provides children creative opportunities to express their understanding of a specific topic or content area, and to develop artistic habits of mind that span academic disciplines. For example, children might mimic a scientist by observing plants and seeds closely, and depict their observations in a field journal. With this new scientific knowledge, children might then create an imaginative project where they sculpt seeds and create seed packets of ‘power plants’ that heal a social ill. Or, children might research immigration and migration by conducting an interview with an immigrant. To express the immigrants’ journey they might create a metaphorical suitcase filled with stories, maps and objects expressing the immigrant’s journey. By integrating art with core disciplines, children make stronger connections to the world, their culture, the culture of others, and themselves.
Arts for Arts’ Sake Creating art for the pure joy of self-expression is important to the intellectual, social and emotional growth of every child. Montessori curriculum validates every child’s right to express and communicate his or her ideas non-verbally. Be it visual, musical, theatrical, or kinesthetic, mastery of artistic materials in service of personal expression is important to each child’s ability to define self, communicate, and engage and persist through problems.
Art History and Cultural Context Art History and Cultural Context provide children with perspectives on what and how art is used in different cultures, as well as how art has changed over the course of history. By studying art from around the world as well as contemporary art that deals with current issues, Urban Montessori children gain a sense of understanding of how art is a vehicle for meaning-making in our diverse culture.
Artistic Habits of Mind All art in the Montessori classroom focuses on the process of making over the finished product. The eight Studio Habits of Mind, drawn from Harvard’s Project Zero Studio Thinking Framework, put equal emphasis on seven, disposition-oriented habits of mind in addition to the more traditional habit ‘develop craft’ or artistic skill. This framework helps children articulate their thinking and tap into their own strengths as learners. The eight Studio Habits of Mind are: Develop Craft, Observe, Stretch and Explore, Envision, Express, Engage and Persist, Reflect and Understand Art World (or History World, Science World, Literary World, etc). The Studio Habits of Mind give teachers and children a common language to discuss artistic process as well as learning strategies. These habits dovetail with Design Thinking processes of Research (Observe, Understand Art World), Observation (Observe), Synthesis (Reflect, Question and Explain), Ideation (Envision, Express, Develop Craft, Stretch and Explore), Prototyping and Testing (Reflect, Engage and Persist, Develop Craft), and Presentations (Reflect, Understand Art World). In both subject areas, children are specifically taught to be ‘mindful of process’—that is, metacognitively aware of the core steps they must practice in order to achieve the results they desire.