"Social Studies on Stage:" A Case Study in Arts Integration and Social Studies Education

Ferris, Jennifer
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University of Delaware
In the wake of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the emergence state-mandated tests in language arts and mathematics, untested subjects have been drastically marginalized from the curriculum. Social studies and the arts have especially suffered in quality and subsequent effectiveness of instruction despite their educational value. At the same time, past research has shown that the integration of the arts into the academic classroom presents a cost effective and engaging way to both instruct students in a content area and allow them to hone artistic and creative abilities. Because social studies and the arts offer similar academic benefits to students, the combination of these subjects in an integrated arts curriculum is both a logical and sensible way to revive or reintroduce these disciplines into the elementary school. "Social Studies on Stage" is scholar-designed curriculum that teaches third grade students social studies content and skills through creative movement and music. This project consists of ten lessons that address the Delaware State Standards for third grade social studies. This paper discusses the context, design, implementation, and evaluation of this curriculum. After a pilot study was conducted in the spring of 2012, a more comprehensive study was undertaken in the fall of 2012. The former study, which accounts for the centerpiece of this project, sought to analyze relationships between students’ participation in the curriculum and improved academic performance, as measured by content knowledge tests in the arts and social studies and standardized reading test scores. While the design of the Fall 2012 study could not substantiate a direct causation between the curriculum’s implementation and any change in student performance on these assessments, results show a statistically significant relationship between participation in the curriculum and improved standardized reading test performance, especially among students with learning disabilities.