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Integrating the Arts into Education Focus of Two-Day Forum in Pittsburgh

National, state and local education leaders are gathering in Pittsburgh to explore how to better integrate the arts into education. The Arts Education Partnership National Forum’s theme this year is preparing students for the next American in and through the Arts. Many conversations about education in recent years have centered on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), but many are trying to add arts – STEAM.

“Science, math, engineering, the arts, social studies, foreign language – they’re all important,” said Sarah Tambucci, director of the Arts Education Collaborative in Pittsburgh, “not one of them more important than another. We think a good citizenry needs to be informed about all of those.”

But for years, the arts were among the first things on the chopping block as schools faced shrinking budgets across the nation. Now, one of the major barriers is access.

“In elementary schools we see that there are nearly 4 million children who do not have access to visual arts education, and in music education we see that about 1.4 million have no access to real instruction,” said Sandra Ruppert, director of the Arts Education Partnership.

But according to Ruppert, school boards are starting to understand the impact of the arts and they are no longer the first thing on the chopping block.

Pittsburgh was chosen for the site of the arts in education forum, in part, because of the rich arts culture both in and out of the schools in the region.

“We think we’re pretty fortunate because many of the priorities in many of the school districts we serve do have arts education as one of those priorities,” said Tambucci.

Among the advantages of the arts is they can be integrated into other subjects, such as making artistic patterns in math or making literature or history “come alive” through art.

“We’re seeing more and more across the country that where you integrate the arts in deep and meaningful ways that kids are more engaged, they learn more, and the teachers are more excited about teaching,” said Doug Herbert, special assistant in the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement.

One of the challenges, according to Herbert is ensuring teachers are given development opportunities to learn to integrate the arts into their subjects.

The two-day forum starts Thursdat and will feature Dr. Jane Chu, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts.

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