Junior High Math and Robotics Teacher
How the Arts Can Transform Learningin Any Classroom
Junior High Math and Robotics Teacher Maria Brinza noticed that when she introduced certain concepts in her Math or Engineering classes, some of her students would start to feel anxious. Enter: the arts.
“It’s almost immediate. If we tackle tough concepts through an art project, the anxiety seems to fall away, followed by openness and enthusiasm,” says Ms. Brinza. “I am not an artist myself, but I am certainly a convert to the power of arts integration in any classroom, in any subject matter.”
Last year, Ms. Brinza applied and was accepted into a semester-long course, “Connecting to the Core Curriculum: Building Teacher Capacity for Arts Integration with Prism.K12,” a credit program taught for teachers by The Phillips Collection in partnership with the University of Maryland. The course provided teachers with the opportunity to integrate the visual arts seamlessly into the core curriculum and to expand their understanding of and ability to implement arts integration in the classroom.
As part of the course, Ms. Brinza and her Prism course classmates had to create one project with their respective school students that would be shown, in March, in The Phillips Collection Student Gallery. Because of the quarantine, the exhibit, “Energizing Education Through Art Integration,” will officially open once the museum can again welcome visitors.
Being Ms. Brinza, she spearheaded not one, but three projects to be included in the exhibit. “I wanted all of my Math and Engineering students to have work included in the exhibit,” she says. “How empowering for them to see their final projects on the walls of a prestigious DC museum!”
In her Math classes to teach geometry and algebra—think trapezoids, polygons, parallelograms and measurements like circumference, diameter, perimeter—Ms. Brinza introduced two art projects. One was based on the stained-glass leaded windows of Frank Lloyd Wright, the other focusing on the geometric forms in traditional African prints and the stories that those printed garments tell. In her Engineering class, students created artbots—robots they programmed to create large colorful canvases in the style of Joan Miro’s surrealist modern art.
“I’ll have to say that I was blown away by the levels of creativity and ingenuity my students showed through these projects,” says Ms. Brinza.
“It was exciting to see the five pillars I had learned in the Prism course—identify, connect, compare, express, empathize, and synthesize—come to life in their drawings, designs, and canvases. I may be as excited as my students, if not more, about the ways we can open up and expand what we are doing in the classroom.”