Making Connections: Transforming MAEIA Assessments into Arts-Integrated Learning Opportunities, Visual Arts and Social Studies, 6th grade

By Karenanna Boyle Creps

In this 4th in a series of 4 blog posts, I share ideas inspired by MAEIA assessments for arts curriculum integration across K-12 school subjects. These arts integration ideas are intended to foster interconnection across school subject areas that could lead to longer-term interdisciplinary collaborations between certified arts educators and certified non-arts educators in schools across the State of Michigan. Student learning deepens across subject areas with the insight cross-disciplinary teaching and learning can provide. Check out the previous posts: 1st Grade Theatre and Math, High School Dance and Life Science, and 3rd Grade Music and English Language Arts.


Arts Subject Area: Visual Arts

Grade Level: 6th
MAEIA Assessment: V.E340 Celebrate! Creating Art to Honor People and Events

NCAS Anchor Standard: VA: Re7–Perceive and analyze artistic work. Cn11–Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical contexts to deepen understanding.

Non-Arts Subject Area to Integrate: Social Studies

Social Studies Content Standard: 6 – G2.2.1 Describe the human characteristics of the region under study, including languages, religions, economic system, governmental system, cultural traditions.


The MAEIA description of the assessment, Celebrate! Creating Art to Honor People and Events reads: Students will analyze images and descriptions of holiday celebrations and identify ways that people use the arts to express their beliefs and celebrate important people and events in their lives. Students will then create a new holiday honoring a person, group of people, or an event of their choice.

This MAEIA assessment serves effortlessly as an arts integrated approach. The overlap between the visual arts and social studies content standards listed above is clear, seen simply by reading the standards of both subjects and by reviewing the provided rubric dimensions.

  • Student identifies art forms used to express beliefs and celebrate important people and events.
  • Student provides examples of art forms used to express beliefs and celebrate important people and events.
  • Student identifies a person, group, or event to celebrate and explains his or her choice.
  • Student uses art forms to create events and activities for the celebration.
  • Student’s celebration includes events or activities for people of different ages, for families, and for whole communities.
  • Student’s drawing illustrates an object used in the celebration, an event, or an activity.

One key element of arts integration is a balance of representation from both content areas, therefore, for best classroom results, it is important that the visual arts teacher and social studies teacher discuss integrating this content early while in the developing/modifying process. The student and teacher handbook for this assessment provides a strong start at content planning as it includes excellent examples of celebrations through art. Some include:

Holi celebrates the victory of good over evil and the arrival of spring. Celebrated in India and many other countries, Holi is a time to laugh and play, repair broken relationships, and give thanks for a good spring harvest. Holi celebrations begin with singing, drumming, and dancing around a Holika bonfire on the night before Holi. The next morning the celebration continues when people throw colors on each other, dance and drum in the streets, and visit family and friends.


Nowruz, meaning the New Day, is a Persian holiday celebrating the first day of spring, the rebirth of nature, and the beginning of the Persian New Year. People who celebrate Nowruz believe the living are visited by the spirits of their ancestors on the last days of the year. During these days, people gather around a table with the Haft Sīn—seven traditional items beginning with the letter S or sīn—and await the exact moment of the arrival of spring. At that time gifts are exchanged.

Thai Pongal is a winter harvest festival first celebrated by Tamil people in India to show appreciation to the Sun God for providing the energy for growing food. In preparation for the holiday, villagers clean their homes and decorate the floors of their entryways with elaborate patterns called Kolam, which are drawn using colored rice flour. The festival is a time when new harvests from the fields are shared in the form of food and sweets not only with the community but also with animals and birds.

The social studies teacher can support learning in both subject areas as they provide a framework for thinking about celebrations as cultural traditions using examples related to one or more of the holidays noted in the assessment. Learning more about the various holidays in that region can serve as a window into the complexity of an interconnected world. In an examination of the people, events, and objects that make a celebration, students will discover what people in a particular geographic location feel is worthy of celebration as well as the unique ways people choose to celebrate those people and events. Students would learn that interconnection does not necessarily quash local customs and traditions, nor does it make everyone the same.

After their social studies lessons, students would enter the visual arts classroom prepared to balance ideas about cultural diversity with an understanding of the interconnectedness of our world. Rather than beginning with the assumption that the holidays featured are merely different, students begin to recognize the holidays as evidence of what people from differing cultures value and the resources used to create a celebration. This framework for thinking about celebrations and holidays informs how students will create their own holiday celebration. As students compare histories and human characteristics of various regions they are also reflecting upon their own experiences of celebration. Students then examine their own experiences by defining the people and events important in their own lives.


In the visual arts classroom, the teacher can focus on art forms and aesthetics, knowing the students are already thinking about cultural diversity and the interconnectedness of human civilizations. When it’s time for students to create their own holiday, they have a pathway, paved, in part, by their work in social studies, to think about what they, themselves, value, and the resources they have at hand to create a celebration.

When using an arts integrated approach, as long as both teachers feel the content they are teaching supports learning in both subject areas in a balanced way, the teaching and learning that culminates is arts-integrated. To this end, the MAEIA assessment, Celebrate! Creating Art to Honor People and Events is naturally arts-integrated in its original form.


Karenanna Boyle Creps, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. She is the Subject Area Leader of Arts Integration and the Licensure Area Leader for K-12 Visual Arts Education. Her research interests are in arts education, experiential learning, intercultural education abroad, the ethics of education research, and arts-based research methodologies. 

Images provided by: Flickr

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