How to Start Collaborating with Non-Art Colleagues

4 months ago

How many times have you talked about collaborating with your colleagues, but for whatever reason it still hasn’t happened? It’s like seeing an old college friend and swearing you’ll get together soon…we all know how that turns out.

There can be a number of things to work through, but if you persist, collaborations can be incredibly beneficial for students.

Collaborating can…

  • Help students build bridges between content areas.
  • Help build a positive community and school culture in your building.
  • Create incredibly unique and memorable learning experiences for students.

How to start collaborating.

The first step is identifying which content areas or colleagues will work logistically with your class schedule. Starting with curricular connections might feel more natural, but if the schedules don’t align, the collaboration will be unsustainable.

Once you’ve built a list of colleagues, invite them to lunch for some idea sharing. This second step is the fun part when you get to break bread and get creative on ways you can work together. Remember, connections with other subjects can include shared content, but also skills, experiences, and habits of mind.

If you’re not sure where to start, here is a list of potential connection points with the visual arts and project ideas for students.

What does art share with math?

ruler

  • Shapes and forms
  • Patterns
  • Tessellations
  • Analytical skills
  • Symmetry
  • Proportion
  • Measuring

Project Idea

Challenge students to create a piece with a specific geometric area or perimeter constraints. This activity will require students to create, problem-solve, and practice their calculations.

And, if you’re looking for more ideas, check out these four specific projects in the Math and Art PRO Learning Pack.

What does art share with physical education?

kids jumping in silhouette

  • Human body and anatomy
  • Movement
  • Practice and performance
  • Hand-eye coordination

Project Idea

Visit the gymnasium for figure drawing with yoga and dance models. Challenge students with unique poses and movement of the human form. For an in-depth look at this type of project, check out the article, Tutu Tuesdays: An Innovative Way to Ramp Up Your Next Figure Drawing Unit!

What does art share with reading?

pile of books

  • Mood
  • Subject matter
  • Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Expression and communication of ideas

Project Idea

Partner a reading and art student to create a book cover for an authentic design experience. The reading student articulates what they’ve learned about the story, characters, setting, etc., and the art student must design for their client.

For more ideas, check out the Literacy Strategies in the Art Room PRO Learning Pack!

What does art share with science?

science flasks

  • Anatomy
  • Scientific process and experimentation
  • Invention of new concepts and techniques
  • Nature

Project Idea

Expose art students to medical illustration (also a potential art career) to create models or renderings of a subject.

For more project ideas to bring into your art room, take a look at the Integrating Art and Science PRO Learning Pack for three specific projects to get you started!

What other collaborations are possible?

Although collaborating with another content-area teacher can come with challenges, they’re often worth it for the outcome you and your students will experience. In addition to the content areas already listed, it’s important to remember other staff in the building who can be equally beneficial and support your work in the classroom.

Custodian/Operations

When was the last time you asked your custodian or operations staff what you could do for them? These staff members play a huge role in supporting our students and facilities. It might take five minutes for the custodian to put twenty-five stools up, but that could also be accomplished by your class in five seconds. And maybe with that saved time, your custodian can help you in a different way.

School Librarian

These staff members can show you a whole new world of resources to help your students create. See how they can support your projects with reference images, historical or cultural artifacts, artist research, art history, etc.

Technology Team

Many schools have a variety of roles that specialize in instructional technology like software, equipment, apps, 1:1 learning, social media, and Google. These people are solution ninjas and can usually share applicable resources or provide support with various aspects of your instruction.

Collaborations don’t happen as often as they should because they are hard. Working with another colleague changes how you typically plan and execute. This takes more time and patience as you accommodate another schedule and add discussion into the process. It can also be challenging when you’re used to having 100% control in your room, and now it’s shared equally.

Your flexibility will be challenged when your counterpart doesn’t say or do everything the way you would. But, you can minimize all of these challenges with proper communication and planning. Your collaboration can be extraordinary for everyone involved. Keep your eyes on the prize and stay focused on the “why” behind the partnership to get you through the process. Remember, nothing is perfect the first time through. You might have to repeat the collaboration a few times to get it right, but the learning taking place is so worth it.

What have you found really helpful when collaborating with a colleague?

What connections have you found with art and another subject?

Nick Gehl

Contributor

Nick is the Department Chair of Fine Arts at Evanston Township High School. He enjoys working with arts teachers to improve the student experience in the studio.

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