Susan Riley | May 2014

Memorial-Day Inspired Arts Integration Ideas

With Memorial-Day approaching this Monday, I thought it would be a great time to introduce some Arts Integration ideas that can highlight several important features of this day of remembrance in our country.  Having many relatives who fought in various capacities for the freedoms we all enjoy, this holiday is so much more meaningful than simply as the kickoff to summer (though I’m all for a good barbecue!) each year.  Sometimes this can get lost for our students, which is why the arts can act as such a pivotal component to showcasing the true meaning of this national holiday.  Here’s a few of my favorite ideas for integrating the arts with our historical context and symbols:

Jasper Johns- inspired Flag Geometry

Taking a look at several of Johns’ works, including Three Flags and Flag and notice the techniques he used in his artwork.  Identify the shapes and colors used, as well as texture and layers.  Notice ratios and proportions among the shapes and colors as well.  Then, provide students with the following prompt: choosing just 3 colors and three shapes, create your own flag design that captures the essential elements of our nation.  Shapes may be overlaid or connected with each other to create a new shape (i.e.: 5 triangles may be used to create a star), but only the following shapes may be used for selection and design: triangles, squares, and circles.

Math Domain: Geometry

Visual Art Anchor Standard: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

Star-Spangled Banner ReWrite

The Star-Spangled Banner is one of the most difficult, yet historically significant musical anthems in the world.  View the original flag that inspired the song by Francis Scott Key via the Smithsonian’s Interactive Flag online.  Keep track of the details about the flag learned through the interactive website and then create a new set of lyrics for the song from the perspective of the flag itself.  Listen to the original song and analyze for use of phrasing and dynamics in alignment with the lyrics (i.e.: the song gets higher in pitch and louder in dynamics at the most significant moments of the lyrics).  Create that same arc into the new set of lyrics from the flag and all that the flag has experienced in 200 years.

English Language Arts: Writing (CCRA.W3)

Music Anchor Standard: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

The Symbols of Freedom

Students can explore what symbols we use to express our freedom, such as the Bald Eagle, the Flag, and Fireworks.  In groups, have students decide how they would show these symbols using their bodies (either as a group or individually) and create a single sentence that could describe how this symbol communicates freedom.  Each group should write and create a narrated performance that explains “what freedom means”.  One student in the group can narrate the performance while the others act out each symbol in sequence.

English Language Arts: Speaking and Listening (CCRA.SL.4)

Theater Anchor Standard: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.

Hopefully, these quick-burst arts integration ideas will spark your creativity and give you the basics you need to create a meaningful Arts Integration Lesson celebrating this Memorial-Day!

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan