Arts Integration and Online Learning: Frindle, Dinosaurs, and Chalk Art

Arts integration is continuing, even during these months of digital learning. Across Utah, teachers are integrating the arts with other curricular areas to keep their students engaged, spark creativity, deepen learning and make home education enjoyable.


Lori Nickerson, a second-grade teacher at Westland Elementary in Jordan School District, has been reading “Frindle” by Andrew Clements to her students. Class members culminated this literature experience by joining a Frindle Fair through Google Meet. At the fair, each student showed how he or she created a project to demonstrate understanding of the story.

The students were encouraged to incorporate as much art into their projects as possible. Some of these projects were dioramas, games and even a flipbook presentation, using media arts.

Nickerson often integrates drama and literary arts by asking the students to act out parts of the story that she is reading online. They also make facial expressions to represent characters. Music, math, and dance are other areas of the curriculum that Nickerson has integrated during the weeks of online learning.


Kelleen Leslie teaches fourth grade at Blackridge Elementary in Jordan School District. “I am trying to include art in my online classroom as much as I can, but it can be daunting,” Leslie said.

Leslie does the “Brain Dance” with her students through Zoom meetings as well as doing happy dances together periodically. While learning about rocks and minerals, the students were tasked with creating their own dances to demonstrate how weathering and erosion occur.

Leslie’s students have also created visual artworks using things from nature. During the weeks of online learning, their study of fossils included creating a new dinosaur and drawing what it would look like.

A first grader from Orem Elementary School sits by the chalk mosaic
that she created before writing a “how to” nonfiction piece about
how to create this artwork, integrating literary arts and visual arts. 


The first-grade students at Orem Elementary School in Alpine School District were learning about writing nonfiction “how to” pieces during the first couple of weeks of online school. They were asked to create an artwork of their choosing. Keeping in mind that not all students have the same materials at their homes, class members were invited to use any materials they liked, including found items, such as rocks. Then, students were to write a how-to piece, describing step-by-step how to create their particular artwork.

A large variety of artworks emerged from this assignment: paintings, realistic and abstract drawing, a rock sculpture, a Lego sculpture, and chalk mosaic art, among others. The writing that resulted from this activity was more detailed than usual and the students proudly showed off their writing and art with photos to their teachers.

Rather than filling out a worksheet about the life cycles of plants and animals, the first graders at Orem Elementary had the opportunity to choose one of the life cycles that they had learned about via online learning. Then, each student drew and wrote about it on a blank piece of paper. The goal was to encourage each student to use their own creativity and the knowledge they had gained to create something meaningful to them while demonstrating understanding of life cycles.

After learning about life cycles through digital learning,
a first grader at Orem Elementary drew, colored and labeled a diagram
of a butterfly life cycle, integrating science, writing and art. 

These are just a few examples of the many ways that arts integration is living on, even during these days of online teaching. Teachers are discovering that the arts are not just for in-person learning. Students are discovering that they can create, even while at home.

Laura Giles is a lover of all things art, a first-grade teacher in Alpine School District, a writer for The Daily Herald newspaper, an Arts Leadership Academy graduate and has earned the Arts Integration Endorsement from Brigham Young University. She can be reached at

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