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  • Division: Lower School
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Dean DeChiaro

How interdisciplinary learning melds Art and Humanities to help students "build on their expanding knowledge."

Stevens art teacher Ed Lu loves when students arrive to his class on the heels of a social studies lesson. He doesn’t demand their undivided attention. Because the school’s arts and humanities curricula are purposefully interwoven, he doesn’t need or want to.

“It helps me to build on their expanding knowledge,” said Ed, who teaches at the Hoboken campus. “Whatever is fresh in their mind, if I can tap into that, they are going to bring so much more to what they do here, and it makes their art much more meaningful.”

The interdisciplinary relationship between art and humanities
is especially on display in the lower school, where 4th graders undertake art projects that complement their study of American migrations. This year, students collaborated on a massive triptych depicting the Trail of Tears and central figures involved in the forced expulsion of Native Americans to the West.

“The triptych was a good form for the art to take because each student was thinking about how their contribution fits with the entire artwork and how it relates to the bigger story,” said Ed. “So within the process, there’s a lot of learning that’s happening that builds on the historical context.”

Scott Fairchild, who teaches art at the Jersey City campus, takes
a similar approach to complementing a Social Studies unit on the Great Migration and Harlem Renaissance by studying the subject matter and practicing the techniques of artists like Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden.

Students are already accustomed to interdisciplinary undertakings by the time they arrive in 4th grade.

In 2nd grade, the Permanent City project draws on math, science, and technology as well as art, plus an early interaction with urban planning when students plan the green spaces, transit systems, and social services they want to include in their community.

“It’s an opportunity for them to learn about cities and their really essential components,” said Kenyett Olds, who teaches 2nd grade in Hoboken. “We hone in on what the cities need to function versus what we may want to put there.”

Second graders also produce a series of shadow puppet plays, which place an emphasis on storytelling and performance. Inspired by fables from different cultures, they collaborate on characters and storylines. Technology is incorporated when they type their scripts in Google Docs and record voiceovers and sound effects for the live performance.

“It’s an entirely new way for them to present their writing,” says Kaitlin Healey, a 2nd grade teacher at Newport, “but they’re also doing so many other things along the way.”

This story appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of SCOOP.