Where art and music are often considered areas of enhancement in other philosophies of education, at Park Street School the disciplines of art and music, science and physical education, drama and Spanish are integral parts of our core curriculum. Students demonstrate a genuine appetite for learning as their engagement in the Arts enriches their knowledge of social and cultural issues, nurtures creativity and critical thinking skills, and heightens a sense of enjoyment in learning, inspiring new challenges, advancing personal and social development, and transforming the core subjects, along with the educational environment.

Making connections across subject matters help us learn.

Take, for example, our unit in fourth grade on Medieval Europe. In history, while we learn of how the decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of nomadic tribes in Western Europe led to feudalism, we are introduced to the Gregorian chant in music. As our minds fill with images of lords and knights and their codes of chivalry as we read King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green, we discover how important plot and setting are for storytelling. As we read The Sword and the Circle by Rosemary Sutcliff, The Young Merlin Trilogy and Sword of the Rightful King by Jane Yolen for added enrichment, we discover in music how music notation was different from our current form, and we define terms such as monophonic, melisma, syllabic and a cappella and listen to Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum and learn several lines from “Introit,” later adding Latin text.

As we learn of the death of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine and how the Black Death swept across Europe, we are introduced to rural towns as centers of commerce with guilds and apprentices, and the roles monasteries and Benedictine monks played in shaping the culture and literature of the time. Listening to modern day ballads of contemporary bards, we discuss the role of Medieval bards and minstrels in passing down such music to our generation. By making connections, we begin to see the principles of rhythm, balance, pattern and unity not only in the visual arts, but also in the written word and through music.

In art, we examine the features of Gothic architecture, looking at the Chartres Cathedral and Notre Dame. We discover that the spires, flying buttresses and pointed arches created spaces that invited people to consider the majesty of God. We discuss how Medieval Europe’s culture influenced how churches were built — with room for people to stand, and storytelling in artwork for those who did not read. We practice step-by-step drawing of Gothic cathedrals with watercolor technique, using the principles of design we’ve learned: rhythm and movement, balance, unity, emphasis and proportion. We observe the use of color, space and balance in illuminated manuscripts such as The Book of Kells.

Our classrooms become active courts as we embark on quests for knighthood, beginning as pages, then becoming squires, and finally knights, as we complete required tasks. We design knights’ armor and helmets in order to compete in tournament on the Boston Common, and must demonstrate mastery over our acquired knowledge of Medieval weaponry, castles, and arts and culture, as well as the eight components of the Code of Chivalry, such as protecting the weak, being generous to the poor, and showing marked courage.