15+ Inspiring Ideas for Cross-Curricular High School Art Projects

Collaborating with other teachers in your school or district can make learning come alive for your students.

Several years ago, I partnered with the dance teacher to create a unique and motivating figure drawing unit called “Tutu Tuesdays.” The dance students posed while the art students drew, and the results were amazing! Through this experience, I learned when different disciplines work together; it becomes a win/win situation for everyone involved.

Today I’d like to share how the art department at my school found ways to work with many different departments, all to the benefit of our students. I hope you can springboard off these ideas and consider the ways you might collaborate with others in your school!

5 Departments to Plan Collaboratively with at the High School Level

1. Physics

student sculpture

After the success of “Tutu Tuesdays,” our physics teacher approached me and asked if I had any ideas for teaching mobiles. Did I ever! I talked with the students about Calder, Giacometti, Man Ray, Liechtenstein, and Tinguely. We discussed the importance of balance and achieving equilibrium. We also talked about how mobiles are kinetic sculptures. Then, students had the opportunity to design their own mobiles, learning and applying principles of physics through hands-on practice.

If you are looking to collaborate with your physics department, here are 3 other ideas to try.

  • Have students create kaleidoscopes with moving parts.
  • Have students set up a Rube Goldberg machine with artistic components using OK GO as inspiration.
  • Play around with the visible light spectrum by creating art under a black light.

2. Language Arts

poetry palooza

As teachers began to see the benefits of collaboration, more opportunities arose. I worked with one of our incredible Language Arts teachers, Natalie Powell, next. She was teaching Dante’s Inferno and wanted students to create the illusion of fire. I happily met with her to show her how a few warm colored oil pastels and some torn paper could do the trick. Through this meeting, we found ourselves brainstorming and came up with our first Poetry Palooza Chalk Party event.

Here are 3 other ways you might collaborate with a Language Arts team. 

  • Have students create a self-portrait in art to go with a piece of narrative writing.
  • Have students illustrate a scene or character from a piece of literature.
  • Have students create a backdrop for a reading or performance of a play they’re studying.

3. Biology

painting with insects

Next, our science department asked how art might help students learn vocabulary related to an insect unit. By drawing the insects, students were able to better retain the new words. At first, I looked at this as a great opportunity to teach students about contour line and value. However, I ended up getting inspired and bringing the insect trays into my AP courses. I tasked students with incorporating the insects into their self-portraits. The results were incredible! From there, a biology teacher asked me to help design and build a large coral reef in his room. It ended up being one of the best teaching experiences of the year.

Check out 3 more ideas for combining art and biology.

  • Have students draw a skeleton to better understand the human form from the inside out.
  • Have students do a metamorphosis drawing of a real animal or insect.
  • Have students use images of things under a microscope as inspiration for an abstract piece.

4. Math

To collaborate with the math department, our art students helped to design a trigonometry-inspired mural. This was a great way for students to see the natural connections between art and math.

If you’re looking for even more ways to connect the two subjects, check out these ideas. 

  • Have students create art based on a specific mathematical idea like the Golden Ratio.
  • Help students learn about perspective by creating geometric tape murals.
  • Challenge students to create complicated geometric folds through the art of origami. Better yet, have them come up with their own design and draw out the directions!

5. Fine Arts Team

art students figure drawing

What could be better than collaborating with your own fine arts team? At my school, we decided to put together a special breakfast event to kick off National Education Week. As people enjoyed a hearty meal, students were busy showcasing their amazing fine arts skills. We had students singing, dancing, playing music, and creating art on-site.

As wonderful as our speakers were, nothing compared to the excitement generated by seeing our students fully engaged in the arts. The first event was so successful; it became an annual tradition for our school.

The ideas for fine arts collaborations are endless. Here are 3 more possibilities. 

  • Plan a cross-departmental fundraiser that includes a silent art auction and dramatic or musical performance.
  • Help raise awareness for all fine arts during Youth Art Month by combining your art show with another type of performance.
  • Partner students from different fine arts classes to work together on a singular task.

There is no reason why every teacher in the school shouldn’t know about the power of infusing art into different disciplines. I often wonder why more schools aren’t moving toward this model. It’s amazing what can happen when these types of collaboration become the norm! Teaching and learning become so much more meaningful.

How do you collaborate with the teachers in your school?

Do you think it’s important to collaborate with teachers from other disciplines?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Debi West

Debi West is one of AOEU’s adjunct instructors and a former AOEU Writer and NBCT art educator. She loves sharing with others and enthusiastically stands behind her motto, “Together we ART better!”

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