Barbara Sandstrom | June 2018

Professional Development through the 5 Senses

It’s the heart of the summer and you are making your way to attend a professional development training. This training sounded great in May when you signed up, but now is so not on your list of priorities.  You’re not even sure what the content of this day entails except it involves Arts Integration. However, being the dedicated teacher, you go anyway. And you hope what you learn is worth missing out on an beautiful summer day.

You arrive onsite, register, and get a packet. Then they tell you to walk another two blocks to a second destination where this training is to begin. When you walk in to this new location, you discover it is a café and you find this intriguing. You soon learn the purpose of this visit introduces you and your peers to the culinary arts and how it incorporates taste, sight, and smell into the world of the arts. The café’s chefs proceed to demonstrate how they use science and the visual arts in the culinary world by talking about the science of flavors and the balancing of the color palette on the plate to make healthy eating enticing.  And you begin to suspect this professional development “training” will be something you have never experienced before.

Jump ahead six hours. That this day is coming to an end is especially disappointing. As your peers reflect on the training and its format, you can’t believe you journeyed to a total of eight locations within a four-block area all centered around the arts. You realize through final discussions that your senses were fully engaged throughout the entire day as you not only visited a café to explore the culinary arts but traveled to a theater and acted in a reader’s theater play, became an accomplished cell phone photographer, explored an alley filled with murals, created a collaborative art piece, drew on your observation skills through Visual Thinking Strategies, tapped into rhythm by participating in a drum circle, and toured a recording studio where you discovered more about the science of sound.

As a result, and without realizing it, this day’s PD caused you to be active, expanded your horizons, and brought out your creative and playful side. Your goal is to think of ways to duplicate this experience with your students during the new school year.

A New Vision

Play was the hidden concept behind the success of this professional development day. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines play in multiple ways.  But for the purposes of this teacher training three definitions were at the forefront of the overall planning: 1). An act, way, or manner of proceeding, 2). The state of being active, operative, or relevant and 3). The act or practice of employing something for a particular purpose. As research by the American Academy of Pediatrics stated in its 2007 article The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds: “Play is integral to the academic environment. It ensures that the school setting attends to the social and emotional development of children as well as their cognitive development. Additionally, it has been shown to help children adjust to the school setting and even to enhance children’s learning readiness, learning behaviors, and problem-solving skills.”

We need to recognize that The Arts are an area in which most teachers feel uncomfortable, insecure, and their training is inadequate.  Hearing the phrases “I can’t draw a stickman” or “I can’t carry a tune” when teachers are asked to reflect on The Arts is not uncommon.  And don’t even get me started on  when it comes to drama, creative movement, or dance!   Educators don’t want to contemplate being put on “center stage” after all! This hesitation to employ The Arts in classrooms causes us to miss out on the unknown talents and interests of our students. Talents that might engage them in learning at a deeper level.

Therefore, in planning for PD around arts integration, a new vision for what it looks like, feels like, and sounds like, is required. Why?  So order for teachers to engage and embrace Arts Integration practices!  At the core of this new vision is the belief that teachers must experience The Arts through their five senses by: 1). Getting comfortable with “stretching” themselves in new ways or in approaches they have not personally used for a long time, and 2). Have the opportunity to play, explore, and create in such a way they forget to be anxious and self-conscious.

Maximizing Experiences

Maximizing the experience for all participants is central to developing enriching and successful learning. So to accomplish this, the stages of Concern Based Assessment Model (CBAM) were embedded to ensure that this adult learning experience would be motivating, hands-on, goal oriented, relevant, practical, and responsive to learner needs. The training incorporated methods and activities that were self-focused, task-focused, and impact-focused. This was achieved by:

  • Self-Focused
    • Awareness: Giving teachers opportunities to “play” in all areas of The Arts at a basic level by arts experts.
    • Information: Providing background information on arts integration.
    • Personal: Engaging teachers at a personal level in each activity and building in authentic settings where learning was amplified.
  • Task-Focused
    • Management: Creating a teacher friendly schedule that involved movement and flexibility.
    • Consequence: Establishing reflections and feedback through the use of Flipgrid, a video discussion platform.
  • Impact-Focused
    • Collaboration: Brainstorming across grade levels different ways the arts integrated learning strategies could be incorporated in their classrooms and schools.
    • Refocusing: Learning how teachers want future PD and how time can be provided to go deeper into their learning so these strategies can be integrated into their lessons.

By mindfully assimilating these components into arts integrated professional development, developers are better able to keep the intent of the PD ongoing, as well as provide the assistance needed to move arts integration and innovation forward.

Ensuring Future Success

When fashioning future professional development around The Arts and arts integration, it is a matter of using brain-based learning, the Multiple Intelligences, William’s Taxonomy for Creative Thinking, and the Five Senses techniques. It also involves paying attention to:

  • The Setting/Location: Creating new settings or taking teachers to authentic locations which provides valid opportunities for acquiring and transferring learning.
  • Digging Deeper: Instead of short-term trainings, plan for longer timeframes that give teachers the chance to play, explore, create, share, and revisit new practices before bringing them to the classroom.
  • Connecting with Arts Experts: If possible, involve arts professionals throughout the entire professional development timeframe. This opens new doors to knowledge, proficiency, collaboration, and community partnerships.
  • Setting Up a Support System: Determine a team of people who are available to go into the classrooms of the participants and provide co-teaching or implementation support. Establish check-in schedules where teachers can come together between trainings and discuss successes and challenges.
  • Collecting Evidence of Learning: If using an electronic portfolio, such as Livebinders, OneDrive, Google Drive, or DropBox provide training to make sure all participants are familiar and comfortable with using the platform. Electronic portfolios are great ways for people to provide feedback and see what their peers are doing.

There are obviously many pressures and requirements involved in the practice of teaching. So it is essential that professional development is thoughtful, insightful, inspiring, and attainable. Give teachers the opportunity to step “outside their box” and explore learning in innovative, playful, as well as joyful ways.

Links to Arts Integrated PD:

Video for the PD


Hand in Hand Education. (2018, May). The William’s Taxonomy For Creative Thinking Skills. Retrieved from Hand in Hand Homeschool:

Holloway, K. (2003, February/March). Learning Forward. Retrieved from National Staff Development Council:

The Strong. (2018). Museum of Play. Retrieved from Play at School:

Vital, M. (2014, March). 9 Types of Intelligence Infographic. Retrieved from Adioma:

“Play.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 21 May 2018.

About the Author

Barbara Sandstrom is an Arts Integration specialist and founder of I 2 I Institute: Imagination to Innovation in Mandan, North Dakota. She has 26 years experience in education as a teacher and administrator. Her passion for the arts has caused her to explore ways in which schools, organizations, and communities can utilize arts-based strategies to meet their mission and goals.