Website review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2021

Kennedy Center Education

Stellar content, practical tips for integrating arts into every subject

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Grades
K–12
Subjects & Skills
Arts, English Language Arts, Science, Social Studies

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Pros: Standards-aligned lesson plans and cool video clips make theater, music, dance, and visual arts accessible.

Cons: Limited search features make the site hard to navigate, and varied content makes it hard to know what to expect.

Bottom Line: If you're willing to do some digging and prep, this is a terrific resource for integrating the arts across the curriculum.

There's a ton of great content on the Kennedy Center site, from fully developed lesson plans to brief clips and smart essays to inform your teaching practice. You'll find lots of ways to deepen your practice and bring cool new ideas into your classroom, whether you use the ready-made lesson plans or just choose to integrate some new content and activities. Before you dive in, figure out how you're going to keep track of it. You can't create an account or otherwise bookmark what you find, so you'll need to pick your favorite tool for collecting materials like this. Then let your creativity run wild: There are music activities for math teachers, hands-on art projects connected with ancient civilizations, close looks at the physics of light and sound on stage, and more. And beyond the educational resources are all of the performances and shows for the broader public that the Kennedy Center hosts over on the main page of the site. While not all of these will be classroom appropriate, teachers might want to check in regularly to see if anything connects to the curriculum.

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Kennedy Center Education is a collection of articles, videos, and activities inspired by the theater, dance, music, and visual arts offered by the broader Kennedy Center institution. The site's materials are intended for teachers to use in the classroom with their students, and there are detailed lesson plans, tips and tricks for classroom use, performance clips, and more. Many of the lesson plans and classroom resources include details about Common Core State Standards and Arts Standards alignment, and many include assessment ideas. The site's main sections are Classroom Lessons and Activities, Educator Best Practices and How-Tos, Media and Interactives for Students, and Performance Guides. The site includes content from ArtsEdge (now the Classroom Lessons and Activities section), an earlier Kennedy Center digital initiative that made explicit connections between the arts and STEM fields, plus newer offerings for parents and children, including video clips from cellist Yo-Yo Ma and illustrator Mo Willems. There are also some resources developed and shared on the lesson plan site Wakelet.

As you might expect from a renowned cultural institution like the Kennedy Center, there are a lot of gems here -- but you'll have to do some digging to find them. Some sections are stellar; materials that were originally part of the ArtsEdge initiative are especially good, including STEAM-focused features that explore things like stagecraft and sound production and the many moving parts that go into what audiences see on stage. Other sections that look closely at the stories behind operas and the history behind theater and dance pieces are detailed, thought-provoking, and easily adaptable for the classroom. This is a terrific way to meaningfully integrate the arts across grade levels and across the curriculum. 

The main drawback is how the site is organized. There's not really an obvious place to start or a good way to get oriented, and it's hard to anticipate how "big" each resource will be when you browse them. Sometimes you're rewarded with a detailed lesson plan with extension activities and printables, and other times, you'll find a brief, thoughtful essay. The site's search features don't let you search quite enough; it would be even better if you could search by standards, grade level, or subject and if the subject tags (like "music" and "science") were clickable. As it is, teachers may have to spend a lot of time browsing to find what they need (and then saving it somewhere for their own purposes). Still, doing the legwork is rewarding here. You'll find some exceptional content to take your students behind the scenes of one of the nation's leading cultural institutions, and perhaps even help students find their own passion for the arts.

Overall Rating

Engagement

It's appealing to explore the arts and discover new connections to science, history, and literature, and it's fun to gain new insights from clips of well-known performers and famous works of art.

Pedagogy

Lesson plans and activities include cool videos, illustrations, behind-the-scenes details, and questions to provoke discussion and curiosity. How-to essays for teachers offer practical, actionable tips. 

Support

There's a nice variety of video, audio, and text content, but it's surprisingly hard to meaningfully sort or search for content.


Common Sense reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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