Art in Social Studies

The use of art in social studies curriculum can better develop students understanding of concepts, vocabulary, and content in social studies as art taps into students different learning abilities. Through the use of art we allow students to discover and use different learning styles, we meet the needs of visual-spatial, kinesthetic, and interpersonal learners. Using the arts extends students understanding by providing a tangible product that can connect to social studies curriculum in explicit and relevant ways. Another bonus of using art in social studies is that art allows our ESOL students who have difficulty expressing themselves through speaking and writing, an alternative way to demonstrate their understanding. 

In Second Grade we study the lives of American Indians in the Eastern Woodland, Great Plains, and Southwest Regions. We look closely at their land, climate, and environment to discover how they use their resources in order to live and survive. Many of my students have never traveled to other parts of the United States so getting them to understand that not all of the U.S. looks like the landscape in Virginia can be difficult! That was until I discovered I could have my students study pictures of these landscapes to then create their own HUGE 5ft by 8 ft murals.

After pulling books and online pictures of these three regions we created these three murals as a class. We did one mural each week, for three weeks, so that EVERYONE in the class contributed to each mural. When we were done we displayed these down our hallway and were able to compare and contrast the land to understand why these American Indians tribes lived such different lives.

When we were all done we also created this bulletin board to help us communicate our learning visually! We displayed it right by our murals! If you are looking for an American Indian bulletin board to organize students thinking you can get your very own set in my store!

Through the use of art in our social studies block, students not only had a tangible project to connect our learning in social studies but they also had the opportunity to practice their interpersonal skills by working with each other and using multiple forms of expression. They learned to communicate more effectively, take turns, and provide constructive feedback to their peers.

I encourage you to give it a try and take one social studies unit to think about and discover where a meaningful art project could be added.  Even if you don't teach American Indians, murals could be done of Ancient China or murals depicting the difference between past and present day life. If you have an example of how you already use art in social studies or how you hope to use art in the future I would love to hear it, so leave a comment below!

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