Yellow, red, orange and various other colors captured the attention of an audience staring at slides projected onto a screen in the gymnasium at Beacon Elementary School.

Yellow, red, orange and various other colors captured the attention of an audience staring at slides projected onto a screen in the gymnasium at Beacon Elementary School.

The artful images were representative of trees, the letter Y and techniques used to help elementary-aged children make connections.

"It is really neat coming into the elementary school and seeing the connection with the arts," said principal Jennifer Williams.

Williams, who was an assistant principal at the high school level before moving to Beacon, said education begins in the lower grade levels.

"We've got to get it right now for them to have it right later," Williams said as art teacher Sandie Southern and music teacher Nicole Mazon demonstrated how all of the subjects tie together.

"What you are seeing is an introduction to a unit on imaginary trees using fourth-grade music," Southern said. She has taught at Beacon for 28 years.

She explained that the imaginary tree art is directly linked to the fourth-graders' habitat studies.

When Understanding by Design (UBD), a means of connecting differentiated instruction, was first presented to the Hilliard City School District teachers, she said, it didn't take long for the art teachers to see the connections.

"This is what we do," she said, explaining that art teachers are always connecting their work to other subjects.

"The nice thing about Understanding by Design that helps us as art teachers is that we are being taught the same language, the same vocabulary," she said.

The lesson plan, Southern said, is the same that is being used by other academic teachers.

Southern explained that when she has a topic she wants to teach, such as ceramics, she looks through the social studies and science curriculum for ways to make the connection.

"It is so easy to connect it to it," she said. "The best uses of your media and the best use of their content can be integrated all together."

Native American history can be tied into an art project.

"For example third grade, their habitat is the desert," said Southern. "They study the habitat of the desert all year long."

In the art room, she said, they use pastel chalk to create landscapes of the desert southwest and the national parks of the southwest.

"We study Georgia O'Keeffe," she said. "I have also created unique sculptures of Mesa Verde to connect to social studies."

In social studies, the students are learning why people evolved from a nomadic society to communities.

"Mesa Verde is one of the very first examples of a community that is still existing," she said. "So we do sculptures. It is really, really easy to integrate all of that. Also I integrate it with language, art and language. Art can be used as symbols in our everyday life."

One of her essential questions pertains to how the two-dimensional shape of a human and the letter Y are the same.

Then she takes it a step further.

"The basic structure of the deciduous tree when represented in the two-dimensional format can be compared to that of the letter Y," she said, "sequentially building on top of one another."

As the slides changed, Southern showed the audience how graphics are used in the artwork, with jelly fish and eagles becoming leaves.

"Why is integration so important?" she asked. "Well, it is personal for me. I am an adult with identified Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). When I was growing up, I was smart."

Yet she was baffled as a student. She couldn't see the point of learning English history or math.

"I couldn't connect it," she said.

She was an adult before she saw the relevance.

"I went to England with my mother, and we are looking at pictures of crests and tartans from Scotland," said Southern. "I said, 'I want to use this. How can I use this?' And my mom said, 'Why don't you teach it in art.'"

The connection was made and it inspired Southern.

"I suddenly wanted to know everything," she said.

A lot of students have never been to the desert and are not interested in the curriculum until they learn about the art, the people, the erosion or the fact that it snows up in the mountains above the desert.

catwogan@yahoo.com