Arts Integration in Practice

Social Studies

What are some arts integration connections to history and social studies?

Classroom Example: Drama

Classroom Example 1

Integrating Social Studies and Drama, Visual Art, and Writing
Focus on John Brown, Abolitionist

Fourth grade students at Bailey’s Elementary School (Fairfax County Public Schools, VA) studied abolitionists (Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, and John Brown) through drama, visual art analysis, and writing. This slide show follows the process students were engaged in during three lessons during which they built and demonstrated their understanding about John Brown and his raid on the Harper’s Ferry arsenal in 1859.

Classroom Example 2

Bringing Portraits to Life
Focus on European Explorers and American Indians

Third grade students at Abingdon Elementary School (Arlington Public Schools, VA) explored the impact of European exploration on American Indians by examining both text and portraits/illustrations. They wrote scripts and created tableaus to demonstrate their understanding of the different perspectives. This slide show follows their process through five 60-minute sessions.

Classroom Example 3

Traveling to the Past Through Trick Photography
Focus on Ellis Island Immigration

Eighth grade students at Hart Middle School (Pleasanton Unified School District, CA) used trick photography to "travel" to Ellis Island during the early 1900s. This video follows them through four 45 minute lessons as they analyzed primary and secondary sources, posed as immigrants and placed themselves in historical images, then wrote poems from their new historical perspectives.

Teaching Artist Interviews

Meet four Kennedy Center teaching artists who provide examples of arts integration connections between social studies and visual arts, songs, drama, and puppetry.

Visual Arts Example (grades 1-8)
“There’s more to a portrait than you might think” says Melanie Rick Layne. “Reading” portraits as biographies helps students develop the background knowledge that leads to curiosity and engagement in learning about prominent historical figures.

Drama Example (grades 2-8)
Sean Layne describes how engaging students in a low-risk drama technique known as tableau is a powerful way to help students construct and demonstrate their understanding of and empathy for important groups, individuals, or events in history.

Music Example (grades 3-8)
Reggie Harris helps students gain a personal connection to history—specifically, the Underground Railroad and the Civil Rights movement—by exploring how music has impacted people, historical events, and whole communities.

Puppetry Example (grades 2-6)
“History is told from a particular point of view” says Judy Klevins. Those perspectives are revealed to students when conduct research, develop the inner monologue for that individual and present it using puppets they create.


Editors & Producers

Amy Duma
Director, Teacher and School Programs
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Lynne B. Silverstein
Senior Program Consultant
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Kenny Neal
Manager, Digital Education Resources

Kennedy Center Teaching Artists

Melanie Rick Layne is a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist. As a National Board Certified Teacher, certified Reading Specialist, and arts integration consultant, she designs and leads workshops, courses, and summer institutes focused on arts integration and integrating reading/analyzing visual art and writing of poetry throughout the K-8 curriculum. She has worked in art museums, schools, and arts centers across the country and frequently collaborates with the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Ms. Layne is a course leader and program consultant for the Kennedy Center’s CETA program in Washington DC. As the CETA program consultant, she works with teaching artists to develop and evaluate workshops presented at the Kennedy Center. melanielayne.com

Sean Layne is a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist and founder of a national arts education consulting company, Focus 5 Inc. which focuses on arts integration across the curriculum, Pre K-12. Mr. Layne presents professional development workshops for teachers and designs training seminars for teaching artists for the Kennedy Center. He is also an Arts Coach for the Kennedy Center’s CETA program. For over a decade, Mr. Layne acted, directed and designed sets for the InterAct Story Theatre, a professional theatre company for young audiences. He also worked as a Master Artist with the Wolf Trap Institute Early Learning Through the Arts. seanlayne.com

Reggie Harris is a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist. He is a performer, musician, and composer who resides in New York. Together with his wife, Kim Harris, they tour schools, universities, and performing venues throughout the world, averaging more than 300 performances a year. Their recordings, Steal Away—Songs of the Underground Railroad and its 2nd volume Get On Board (Appleseed Recordings) are included in many museum and library collections. The Harrises have been featured performers in several Silver Burdett/Ginn music series and have collaborated on an Underground Railroad video and game for use by teachers and families. They perform at venues such as The Smithsonian Institution, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Wang Center. kimandreggie.com

Judy Thibault Klevins is a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist. She is a drama educator who has directed hundreds of plays and projects with people who range in age from seven to ninety-two. A theater and language arts teacher in Arlington, Virginia, Ms. Klevins’ high school booster club named her “Coach of the Year,” and she continues to serve as a coach/mentor to teachers as they introduce drama strategies in their classroom. Ms. Klevins also served as Arlington’s Arts Education Specialist. A presenter at international and national conventions, she has created, directed, and performed readings at the U.S. Senate Office Building, the National Institutes of Health, and other venues, and created Swapping Stories©, a unique intergenerational/intercultural drama project. exchangingstories.org

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