Six ways to integrate art into the classroom on a B-U-D-G-E-T.
Guest Post by Jenny Knappenberger from Art with Jenny K.
We all know teachers have a full plate which may make it seem as if there is little room to take on any extras like teaching the arts. Luckily art is one of those subjects that is simply everywhere and can easily be integrated into reading, writing, math and science and you don’t have to sacrifice art skills or academic skills to combine them. Artists are great thinkers, problem solvers, mathematicians and inventors.
Once you believe the arts are important for kids (which I find that most teachers do) then it’s a journey to gather ideas. With fabulous online resources like Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, Facebook and innovative blogs, there is no shortage of great ideas. But while the gathering of ideas certainly isn’t an obstacle when it comes to integrating the arts into the classroom, sometimes funding those ideas can be a hard hurdle to overcome.
To help out with this, I’d like to share 6 ways to integrate the arts into your classroom on a budget and help you think about funding your art integration ideas in a new way.
Buy in bulk. When you have a limited amount of money don’t blow it on buying markers, colored pencils, crayons, paper or any consumable supply at higher unit prices. Buy those things in bulk from places like Sax Art supply, Dick Blick or from a local teacher store in your area. Those super large boxes of crayons, markers and pencils will last much longer and the unit price will be more reasonable for your budget. Also don’t throw away those small crayons at the end of the year – instead turn them into recycled crayons and turn your markers upside down in a jar with some water and make watercolor paints. Get every-last-drop of use from your supplies that you purchased at bulk price.
Unleash your students. You think I’m joking and being silly but truly I am not. Your kids are the absolute #1 resource for helping you integrate the arts on a budget. See a project you think they would like, ask them how the class might find a way to fund the project. They will rise up and find ways, let them solve the problems and find ways to make it happen. Using a child-centered approach like this in your class will not only take a lot of the pressure off of you but it will put the learning on your students (and that’s what it’s really about anyway, isn’t it?). They will be so much more invested in their projects and their learning if they have to help figure things out–even how to afford supplies. For example using air-dry clay is a great way to connect art with social studies, for example, while learning about Egypt each child could create their own sarcophagus, but it is expensive. Have the kids brainstorm ways of raising the funds to obtains some–once they know what they’ll be doing with it, they’ll be super excited about figuring out how to get some!
Do-it-yourself home stores. Buy typical art supplies at your local do-it-yourself home stores. A lot of the resources you’ll find at an art store will be the same at stores like Ace, Lowe’s or Home Depot but they will be a fraction of the cost–things like paint, tape, glue, etc. Also, those home renovation type stores will often cut things for you like plexiglass and masonite. You can do things like make your own chalk boards by having them cut down a large sheet of masonite into smaller pieces and then use chalkboard paint to cover the pieces. Then take them outside and let children observe things in nature for a science lesson using their new chalkboards.
Get donations. Go to local shops and ask for donations. I always go to local frame shops and ask for their scrap mat board. It’s perfect for so many things and the frame shops have tons of it. Sign companies have a lot of scraps as well – ask them to donate some of the scraps. You’ll probably get more then you know what to do with and often the sizes are plenty big enough to use. Go to your local grocery store and ask for brown bags to use as bark for an Aboriginal art lesson connected to history/geography – make the dots using Q-tips. Also get donations by writing up a cause on Pledge Cents or start a project on Donors Choose and get the funds you need to help start a specific project. Don’t forget about writing grants – they too are great ways to get donations.
Egg cartons, cereal boxes and bottle tops, oh my! No really–don’t throw anything away from your recycle bin at home, use it. And put the call out for the kids to bring stuff in from their own. Egg cartons are perfect for putting paint in and used as a palette. Cut up your cereal boxes and use the cardboard for just about any project, covers to portfolios, templates for shapes and more. Kids can even paint over the printed side with white paint and use it as a fresh, clean surface. I once made cereal box shoes with my kids and they absolutely LOVED it!
Bottle tops – keep them all and use them to make recycled images. You can see here how my students and I made the Arizona flag using bottle tops.You could easily make the flag of your state, county or even school logo. Kids love collaboration projects like this. If you’d like to see more specifics on some of these recycled projects I’ve mentioned you can read more about them HERE.
Your school is full of resources too–like the milk cartons in the lunch room. Use them to challenge your students in an architecture study. Let your students build with them and cover them using scrap paper you have around your classroom. This will stretch their imaginations but cost you absolutely nothing. While we are discussing milk don’t forget about your own gallon size containers. They are great for making masks. Ask each child to bring in one gallon jug or put a box in the lounge and ask teachers to donate their empty milk jugs. Ask every teacher to donate the lids from their Starbucks cups for a month and then challenge your students to make something new with the tops–these sort of challenges are great STEM activities. Do the same thing with water bottles. It’s truly endless once you start looking at your recycle bin as a means to a learning opportunity for your students. You’ll find that integrating the arts in your classroom doesn’t have to cost much at all and it’s easy to do.
Tell everyone about your students and the great things they are learning. Don’t assume your students will go home and tell their parents about the amazing lessons their teacher spent all weekend creating for them. Start a digital newsletter and e-mail it to parents and your school community each week or month. Include pictures of your students in the newsletter and get the parents involved in your class–they’ll help you fund your projects or help raise money to go visit a local art gallery– if they know you need it!
Click HERE or on the image below to download and print this quick guide to integrating art on a budget. To get started right way with art integration, and completely for free click HERE to try one of my many free resources.
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Jenny Knappenberger is an award-winning educator who has taught art to middle school, elementary and gifted children in Virginia and in Arizona. Her favorite little artist is her 2-year-old daughter who gets to try out mommy’s never ending list of ideas! Jenny is the author of www.jennyknappenberger.com and the owner of Art with Jenny K. Jenny is is dedicated to making art integration easy and exciting for classroom teachers.