The Art of Teaching: Create2013

by DeeGee Lester

The greatest teachers, those who inspire and launch their students into the future, expand the classroom experience beyond rote learning, helping students to see the bigger picture, to apply what they have learned, and to explore their possibilities through knowledge.

On July 9–12, the Tennessee Arts Commission hosts the third annual Creativity in Education Institute, Create2013, at Middle Tennessee State University. With an emphasis on “Art at the Core,” K–12 teachers and administrators will attend workshops and lectures, build networks, design lesson plans, and explore best practices that shatter the notion that each subject area is separate and disconnected. Conference attendees explore the part of arts integration in core curriculum and the infusion of the arts as a critical tipping point in student understanding of many subjects.

“There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the connection between the arts and student achievement,” says Anne Pope, executive director of the Tennessee Arts Commission.

The research is matched by the repeated statements of corporate leaders in defining the skill sets needed for success in the twenty-first century. These leaders emphasize that the development of technical skills in any field is essential, but that the key that separates the top performers is creativity—the ability to be innovative, to address problems in new ways, and to develop a flexibility of the mind that can grasp and explore possibilities. 

These educational and workforce realities will be explored by speakers and presenters beginning with the conference keynote address by Lisa Phillips, author and CEO of Canada’s Academy of Stage and Studio Arts, whose writings highlight student educational needs. Throughout the four days, participants will experience integration models that can be used in the classroom to close the achievement gap.

The integration of puppetry, music, art, dance and theater with subject areas as diverse as math, social studies, language arts, and science, offers visual teaching tools and applicable models for often difficult concepts. For example, featured speaker and workshop presenter Karl Schaffer, demonstrates the mathematical concepts and thinking necessary in the creation and performance of dance. “At the basic level, students can explore the idea of pattern,” Schaffer says. “But the intertwining of math and dance can be explored on many levels including symmetry, permutations, rhythm, and counting.” For so many students, these visual connections can ignite interest and assist in understanding.

But education is playing catch-up to such realities. Conference speaker Bruce Taylor points out that anyone would agree the world has changed dramatically, but decade after decade, teaching and learning remained the same. The development and adoption of Common Core standards in state after state are creating a paradigm shift, Taylor explains. “It is a shift from access, delivery of content, and memorization, to ‘what do you do with what you know’ and ‘how do you shift to unfamiliar concepts’?”  The new model helps students to develop new strategies and to see the impact of one subject area upon another. “The key verbs in Common Core are analyse and evaluate as opposed to recall or retain,” he says.

Taylor reminds us that in the process, students develop critical thinking and the ability to imagine what isn’t – essential skills in a world that is changing rapidly. Information, theory, and product innovation are growing exponentially. “With the development of technology, including voice-activated capabilities for phones, kids will have access and demand in their back pockets.”

The creative and critical thinking skills developed through the arts and united with Common Core standards helps students to build intention and focus: What do you do with this information? Why is it relevant? As the Create2013 conference lectures, presentations and workshops show, the infusion of the arts is not simply play time, but an approach to thinking for young people whom Taylor calls the practitioners of the future.

We are preparing them now. For more information, visit



Pin It on Pinterest