What can we learn from inquiring into the arts in the PYP?

At the opening ceremony of IB Global Conference in October, students from Amadeus International School, Vienna, Austria, sang in front of a packed auditorium of over 2,000 educators. As well as entertaining the audience, the performance offered an active and meaningful learning process for the primary and secondary students involved.

With music and art, students are exposed to multisensory stimuli that have the purpose of provoking them into developing a sense of curiosity and hunger for knowledge. This is the beginning of the music and arts inquiry cycle.

The conference performance pieces included an Andalusian/Arabic piece, representing inclusion and peace between nations; a traditional piece from Styria in Austria; and a modern vocal piece to send a message of living our lives to the fullest. Students chose with teachers which repertoire to submit for the conference following criteria that we set together as a group. Students analysed and linked musical features and elements of the traditional pieces we performed to other musical works they were studying in class.

“They shared the lead during rehearsals by conducting the others and making artistic choices on how to interpret the repertoire. Primary and secondary students were active in all the processes. Some of our students recorded themselves to support the group with the Arabic and German pronunciation. They contributed by sharing stories and meanings that were part of their life experiences and were linked to the context of the songs. They were also active in the arrangement we created for the modern vocal piece,” explains one of the teachers.

Encouraging student agency

The conference performance is just one example of how inquiring into the arts can help students develop agency, skills and international-mindedness.

The arts provide a range of mediums for students to express themselves in creative ways and to develop a critical appreciation of their own works and those of others. The arts help to construct, reinforce, challenge and transform social, cultural, political and religious values.

By interpreting and performing works of art, we help preserve the values and the truths that our societies hold and we equip our students with the soft skills they will need to become global citizens of the future.

Fostering international-mindedness

Visual art, dance and music can be used to link local and global issues as well as deepen understanding of cultures and international-mindedness. In the arts, one needs to enable students to look beyond artists and performers of the Western world and look at the transformation of art within Asia, Latin America and Africa.

IB learner profile attributes are also stimulated. For example, in visual art lessons, students can become knowledgeable, reflective and thinkers when exploring how the materials they are using may be environmentally friendly or sustainable, or when they learn the many ways to communicate through the arts.

By performing and evoking real and authentic expressions of world cultures, arts classrooms change into micro communities that share responsibilities for the artistic process and encourage the natural development of the learner profile attributes.

A fusion of the arts

The future is in new types of practices such as voice choreography, painted singing, intelligent and virtual choirs. The intelligent choir is a concept of training choir conductors to inspire choristers to share responsibility for the musical process and enhance reflection, creativity and interaction.

The joy of expressing the self through the arts is in the doing, and the meaning is revealed through the thinking. To be able to preserve our humanity and avoid contemporary angst and alienation, we need to stop teaching subjects practicing the deliberate isolation of the heart from the mind and body, and the separation of music from poetry and from movement and begin to combine them.

In Swiss International Scientific School of Dubai, Art, and Music and Drama are taught in keeping with the Arts Scope and Sequence documents of the IB programme. We showcase learning of the arts through exhibitions, extravaganzas, concerts and productions. Opportunities for developing and nurturing talent are provided regularly and systematically through all our school events and extra-curricular activities.


Arts are important but often overlooked. They are another learning tool that allow people of all ages to express themselves in ways that they may not be able to when communicating through usual speech or writing” Benjamin Findlay- Primary School Music coordinator at SISD.



This article was originally published on ibo.org

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