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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 6 Issue 1 2010



Brouillette and Gibbs provide a foreword to guide the reader through the multiple sections of this volume and introduce a new "Opinion" section.

Arts and Geography

Introduction to Arts and Geography

As the editors of the Arts and Geography section of this issue, Brouillette and Gibbs provide an introduction to the articles included.

Implementing Mapping the Beat in the 8th Grade

This article looks at the woeful lack of geographic understanding exhibited by young people in the United States and proposes a solution. A series of workshops designed to supplement the eighth grade American history curriculum are described. Focusing on historical and ethnic music—the “soundtrack” of American history—the curriculum focuses on expanding student awareness of physical and cultural geography.

The workshops build on the Mapping the Beat curriculum, originally developed for the fifth grade and funded by National Geographic. The migration of musical forms is used as a metaphor for human migration and cultural interaction. Nine workshops, on topics ranging from Native American music to the songs of the Civil War, are described. Analysis of conversations with student focus groups suggested that recreating the musical “soundtrack” of American history helped students to meaningfully connect with (and make connections within) the United States history curriculum.


Gaining Insight into Cultural Geography through the Study of Musical Instruments

At present, the need for an understanding of both physical and cultural geography is increasingly urgent in America’s schools. The present study explores using music as focus for the exploration of geography. Not only is music strongly linked to culture and environment but also its study provides an experiential understanding of a given culture in a way that few others can. Instrumental music, unfettered by practical, semantic, or representational constraints of other traditional art forms, can be considered as one of the most direct forms of cultural expression, reflecting primarily the collective imagination of the culture that developed it and the environment in which it developed. Musical instruments are shaped by a culture’s aesthetics and made using locally available materials and technologies.

The present article takes as a case study a class at the Museum School, a San Diego Unified School District charter school that emphasizes experiential learning and the arts in its daily curriculum. In this case study, 23 children in grades 4-6 focused their attention on the culture and geography of the Island of Bali, Indonesia, through studying its instrumental music, known as “gamelan.”

The Museum School has had a Balinese gamelan program as part of its music curriculum since 2000 and thus all of the students approached the subject with substantial experiential knowledge. The course of study, which lasted several weeks, went through four stages of inquiry and discussion. First, the students conducted background research on Balinese music, focusing in particular on organology. Second, the students explored Balinese geography through organology, deducing aspects of the Balinese environment based on the design and construction of the instruments. Third, the students examined Balinese culture through its music, focusing on musical structure. Fourth the students were asked to make connections between Balinese culture and physical geography as seen through music. Finally, the students compared and contrast what they had learned with musics of their own choice, pointing out likely cultural and environmental factors that likely caused the differences and similarities they observed.

This course of study helped the students make connections between cultural and physical geography in a nuanced way. Further, although focus on music and art as a subject, the core elements of the class were writing and research skills. Combining these skills with experiential learning not only deepens and nuances understanding of geography but also expands students’ cognitive repertoire, providing tools for further exploration.

A Constructivist Study of Middle School Students’ Narratives and Ecological Illustrations

Using participant observation, we describe/interpret the results of teaching a constructivist unit that empowered students in narrative writing and illustration. Participant observation methods included daily note taking, pre-post questioning, and photographing artworks. We analyzed students’ stories and illustrations with borrowed and emerging categories and included students’ criteria from their final peer assessment called Critter Critique. Findings suggest they have misconceptions about the desert (an ugly place or has triangular shaped mountains). When narrating, students showed propensity to use first person narration and humor. They are fascinated with the predator/prey theme and snakes are their dominant desert creatures. When illustrating, some students used expression/projection; all used three or more spatial grounds; and many drew tiny details and secret places. Educators need to discuss with students life cycles in the desert, essential issues such as survival, their place in the preservation of this delicate and quickly disappearing wilderness, and the reasons why they should take care of the desert and its animals.

The Role of Coaching by Teaching Artists for Arts-Infused Social Studies: What Project CREATES Has to Offer

One strategy used by Project CREATES to enhance the fusion of social studies with the arts was to provide various forms of professional development to artists and teachers (Montgomery, Otto, & Hull, 2007), including seminars, book clubs, and on-site Arts Resource Coaches. The purpose of this study was to describe the role of the coaches as they worked with teachers, arts educators, and community artists to infuse the arts in elementary school curricula, specifically social studies for fifth graders. Using qualitative methods over a seven-year period, data included interviews, artifacts, field notes, and observations. Themes that emerged from the analysis included four types of connections resulting in school culture changes. Two types of connections to the curriculum were found, including facilitating lesson plans that have local, state, or national content standards and the implementation of evidence-based instructional practices. Additionally, coaches assured the collaboration and connections between teachers and artists, and they were catalyst for connecting community artists and arts agencies to the schools. In so doing, the coach acted as the catalyst for change to the school culture and teacher transformation. Implications for professional development of teachers and artists are discussed.

Performing Thyself: Sparking Imagination and Exploring Ethnic Identity Through Singing and Dancing

This essay discusses two sets of creative teaching methods: live singing and dancing. The performance by an instructor can set a mode for students to achieve intellectual transformation by exploring issues of identity. The role of music, especially folk singing and dancing, is specifically examined within the intercultural context of communication. Performative dialogue can be used as an effective, novel technique to initiate and develop cultural connections and discussions of culture and identity in the classroom. The author shares her experience of performing folk dancing and singing as examples of Russian cultural musical heritage to illustrate how singing and dancing can help students to learn about themselves and others, about culture, identity, and communication at large.

Helping Children Cross Cultural Boundaries in the Borderlands: Arts Program at Freese Elementary in San Diego Creates Cultural Bridge

This article describes the unique multicultural arts program that has developed at Freese Elementary School, located only 20 minutes from the United States-Mexico border, in the southeastern corner of the San Diego Unified School District. The Arts and Culture Magnet Program at Freese grew out of the need build bridges in a neighborhood where rapid demographic change had created explosive tensions. The magnet program teaches visual and performing arts, literacy, and social studies through in-class artist residencies, workshops, field trips, and assemblies that have been developed in collaboration with local arts organizations. Through the arts, Freese has become a bright and cheery school where children are busy learning, an island of hope in a neighborhood beset by conflict.

Teaching and Learning through the Arts

Introduction to Teaching and Learning through the Arts

Brouillette provides overview of Teaching and Learning through the Arts section.

Arts Impact: Lessons From ArtsBridge

Arts Impact summarizes lessons learned at the ArtsBridge Program. It is informed by in-depth participant observation, logic modeling, and quantitative evaluation of program impact on K-12 students in inner city schools and arts students at the University of California Los Angeles over a two year period. The case study frames its analysis through a literary overview of the following social issues: 1) how educational attainment relates to poverty in California; 2) the importance of the creative economy in Los Angeles; and 3) the failure of California to reach federally mandated goals in arts education--particularly for under-resourced neighborhoods. Data finds statistically significant positive impacts on participants’ views of self and others. This case study suggests important roles for higher education partnerships with under-resourced K-12 schools, the significance of quality teacher preparation in the arts at the university level, and the positive impact of arts education for empowering student and teacher learning.

Visual Arts as a Lever for Social Justice Education: Labor Studies in the High School Art Curriculum

This collaborative action research study of pedagogy examines an introductory high school visual arts curriculum that includes artworks pertinent to labor studies, and their impact on students’ understanding of the power of art for social commentary. Urban students with multicultural backgrounds study social realism as an historical artistic movement, consider the value of collective activism for social justice, and learn modes of artistic expression that meet state standards in visual arts. The powerful realistic and fantastical images the students produced express their consciousness of impending workforce participation; images communicate their inner voices and provide insights into their perceptions of working in today’s global environment. The art teacher’s reflections include recognition of the unique literacy demands of subject area textbooks, the necessity of schema-building to understand social studies content, the accommodation of the special academic needs of English language learners, and the importance of professional development for educators. Outcomes of the study find value in incorporating labor studies content into the visual art curriculum as an engaging and worthwhile avenue toward meeting visual arts standards and promoting social justice awareness among students.

Show Me What You See: An Exploration of Learning in Museums and Learning in Theatre

The main goal of this research study is to explore the interconnection between museum learning and theatre learning. We will begin this exploratory process by analyzing the functions of role-playing and improvisation as teaching and learning strategies, and we will then expand this analysis to the idea of storytelling as a link between learning in museums and learning in theatre. Subsequently, the study will be established upon the idea that there is a possible correlation between learning in museums and learning in theatre. Furthermore, the study will investigate how storytelling in dramatic forms, such as a group improvisational performance, can affect students' thought processes regarding a series of images and/or objects in a museum exhibit.


Introduction to Opinion

Brouillette provides overview of new Opinion section.

Updating the Libel-Label Fallacy

Levine warns of the dangers of using numerical acumen as a substitute for practical knowledge and offers insight into quantification’s proper role in societal decision making.