However, art class needs to be ART class. It is not secondary to core content, but a partner. Projects still need to be connected to the student/artist interest and expression, if not, it's not ART. The integration happens in parallel.
Some districts and even some states are examining this idea of incorporating the arts to improve student performance. Though modest gains show, they are often missing the large potential gains. They are "holding back" from having fine arts classes in lieu of doing some art-like activities in their core classes. In one instance, a science class asked students to create realistic and abstract leaf drawings (in this article) It does strengthen understanding but is disconnected to the child's point of view and anything that motivates the child. IT IS NOT ART. It is a craft project, and a certified art teacher could be a valuable resource for the exercise along with the science teacher, BUT that exercise should NOT be done within the art room.
Many of these "Arts Integrated" schools, on some level, still do not believe that an art class is important. They still see it as a "frill" even though they tout its importance when connected to core content. They fail to see that a rigorous art program, taught by a certified art teacher, connected to core content, brings even greater success.
For example, the art room could explore trees, leaves, foliage, and perhaps create leaf collages of woodland creatures to protect nature. This could be tied into a literary reference appropriate to the student's age, like "The Giving Tree," as well as information about climate change. Alternately students could print with leaves to create self portraits in the mode of Giuseppe Arcimboldo. In this latter approach students not only connect their learning to biology, but history as well. If they conclude the project with some writing, English skills are enhanced as well.
When discussing color in an art class, my students talk about and explore the spectrum, prisms, light waves, etc. When we construct sculptures we talk about and explore structure, engineering, balance, and mass. In projects we connect with history, the events surrounding the art, be it the French Revolution or the Renaissance. We include writing often through critique, plan, reply, investigate, and more.
Art not only promotes understanding of core content but internalizes it in a way no other class can, in a way that a craft connection can't. This is not just helpful for elementary schools, but beneficial to high school students as well. My own students outscore their peers on the S.A.T. by 155 points on average. They are also 50% less likely to fail the H.S.P.A. exam than their peers. This is far better than the few percentage point touted by districts that integrate "craft" into core content and call it art.
Art must be a PARTNER in education for the greatest benefit.
For more examples of core connected art projects please visit HERE. For more writing resources please visit HERE. For evidence and more information about a core connected (STEAM) approach, please visit my Advocate Page.