Arts education in DC Public Schools cultivates each student’s ability to create and empowers them to use their voice with courage.  DCPS Arts develops the critical problem solving and communication skills of students that are vital in creating today’s complex society.  The Framework for Arts Learning is a curriculum that encompasses all arts disciplines, aligning student investigations and experiences from the youngest school age to graduation. Throughout their time in DCPS, students increase their ability to address complex issues and to explore multiple perspectives through the arts. Students of DCPS arts education will be innovative in their approach to contemporary society’s most pressing issues, as they become savvy consumers and producers of culture.


Search for materials by standard, grade level, or instructional model, or browse the full collection below.


Elementary Art - A View From Below

Project - Based Learning

In this Cornerstone, students will gain a deeper understanding of how contrast can be used by an artist to alter the way an individual views or experiences an object, animal, or environment. Students will use a community nature walk to begin observations of their environment and consider how other creatures experience the world. Individually and through class collaboration, students will engage in project-based learning to create an environment that places them in the role of another creature through manipulation of scale. Students will research the environments of small creatures, investigate use of scale and plan their installation. Finally, student may invite others in the school community to experience 'being a bug.' Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


VA:Cr1.2.K: Engage collaboratively in creative art-making in response to an artistic problem.

VA:Cr2.1.K: Through experimentation, build skills in various media and approaches to art-making.

VA:Cr2.2.K: Identify safe and non-toxic art materials, tools, and equipment.

VA:Cn11.1.K: Identify a purpose of an artwork.

Elementary Art - Powerful Characters, Powerful Words

Close Reading / Close Study

Students will focus on character development and motivation through the art of puppetry. Students will create puppets and scenery to express how and individual's motivations, feelings, and actions can alter a course of events. Through performance embedded in this Cornerstones, students will act out scenarios in which their individual characters interact based on their motivations and feelings. Students will use the visual indicators of character as drivers for their decision making. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


VA: Re7.2.3a: Determine messages communicated by an image.

VA: Re7.1.3a: Speculate about the process an artist uses to create a work of art.

VA: Pr6.1.3a: Identify and explain how and where different cultures record and illustrate stories and histories of life through art.

Elementary Music - Creating a Folk Dance

Performance Preparation

Through music and movement, students will explore the folk traditions of cultures across the globe. Over a series of lessons, students will build their movement vocabulary through the process of learning and deconstructing a variety of folk dances. In deconstruction, students will learn the skills necessary to compose their own folk dance and the unit culminates in the creation and presentation of student-composed movement phrases. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


MU:Cn11.0.2a: Demonstrate understanding of relationships between music and the other arts, other disciplines, varied context, and daily life

MU:Pr6.1.2b: Perform appropriately for the audience and purpose

MU:Cr1.1.2b: Generate musical patterns and ideas within the context of a given tonality (such as major and minor) and meter (such as duple and triple)

MU:Pr5.1.2b: Rehearse, identify and apply strategies to address interpretive, performance, and technical challenges of music.

MU:Cr3.2.2a: Convey expressive intent for a specific purpose by presenting a final version of a personal musical idea to peers or informal audience.

MU:Pr5.1.2a: Apply established criteria to judge the accuracy, effectiveness, and expressiveness of performances.

Elementary Music - Narrative Composition

Close Reading / Close Study

Through composition, students will learn how music can be used to convey narrative, both melodically and lyrically. During this unit, students will compose lyrics and melodies based on a chosen narrative. Inspired by a real-life story of a child who created change, students will learn how to use patterns of rhyme and meter to compose lyrics. Working with Orff instruments, students will also compose a melody for their lyrics in the C pentatonic scale. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


MU:Cr1.1.3b: Generate musical ideas (such as rhythms and melodies) within a given tonality and/ or meter.

MU:Cr3.2.3a: Present the final version of a personal created music to others, and describe connection to expressive intent.

MU:Cr2.1.3a: Demonstrate selected musical ideas for a simple improvisation or composition to express intent, and describe connection to a specific purpose and context.

Elementary Music - Improvised Accompaniment

Performance Preparation

Through this Cornerstone, students will learn how music can be used to communicate the dramatic elements of a story. Using instrumentation, movement and improvisation, students will accompany a narrative, communicating aspects of setting, tone and character emotions. Driven by experience, students will learn the basic elements of music through contrasts (loud/soft, high/low, fast/slow) and connect these elements to communicating physical, emotional and dramatic elements of the narrative. Students will engage in a cycle of creation, improvisation, feedback and presentation to produce their final work. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


MU:Cr1.1.Ka: With guidance, explore and experience music concepts (such as beat and melodic contour).

MU:Cr2.1.Ka: With guidance, demonstrate and choose favorite musical ideas.

MU:Cr3.2.Ka: With guidance, demonstrate a final version of personal musical ideas to peers.

Middle Grades Art - The Grid

Project-Based Learning

Students will examine the ways that artists use the aesthetics of mapping and representations to communicate ideas about space and location. Following the guided collection of visual, spatial and personal information that occurs during routine explorations of their environment, students will create a work that layers and abstracts visual information using maps as an underlying structure. Through project-based learning, students will research, collect data, interpret and communicate their ideas and experiences about space and place. A cycle of development, feedback, revision and reflection will guide these investigations. Teachers may choose to work with their physical education colleague to link this art-making experience with the geocaching Cornerstone. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


VA:Cr2.1.6 Demonstrate openness in trying new ideas, materials, methods, and approaches in making works of art and design.

VA:Cr2.2.6 Explain environmental implications of conservation, care, and clean-up of art materials, tools, and equipment.

VA:Cn10.1.6 Generate a collection of ideas reflecting current interests and concerns that could be investigated in art-making.

VA:Cn11.1.6Analyze how art reflects changing times, traditions, resources, and cultural uses

Middle Grades Music - Compositional Intent

Close Reading / Close Study

Through a close investigation of complex compositions that address the topic of composer’s intent based on his/her perspective, students will develop the ability to investigate and interpret music in order to make meaning and inform their own practice. Similar to Close Reading in ELA, students will be guided through a series of encounters with the compositions, each with specific goals and scaffolded to build students' capacity for interpretation. Students will follow the process of Close Study, learning to break down complex works and to use peer discussion and annotation as tools to support their individual examinations. Students will focus on the range of perspectives from which an individual approaches music. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


MU.Re7.2.8: Compare how the elements of music and expressive qualities relate to the structure within programs of music.

MU.Re8.1.8: Support personal interpretation of contrasting programs of music and explain how creators’ or performers’ apply the elements of music and expressive qualities, within genres, cultures, and historical periods to convey expressive intent

MU:Pr4.2.8c Identify how cultural and historical context inform performance and results in different musical effects.

High School Ensembles - Historical Music Informance

Performance Preparation

In this Cornerstone, students will explore a historical period from a social and musical viewpoint to glean how concepts and ideas of the time were conveyed through music. Students will identify a focus era through which they will research and explore musicians and compositions, as well as analyze, evaluate, and select repertoire for a history-based "informance" presentation. Students will discover the process and considerations to effectively research, analyze, evaluate, discuss, select, and report ensemble repertoire for "informance". Students will also evaluate the role and importance of music as language which communicates the human condition of a people in a given time period. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


MU:Re7.1.E.5a: Identify reasons for selecting music based on characteristics found in the music, connection to interest, and purpose or context.

MU:Pr4.1.E.5a: Select varied repertoire to study based on interest, music reading skills (where appropriate), an understanding of the structure of the music, context, and the technical skill of the individual or ensemble.

MU:Pr6.1.E.5b: Demonstrate an awareness of the context of the music through prepared and improvised performances.

High School Ensembles - Student Self-Evaluation

Performance Preparation

Students will engage in a process of guided self-reflection and self-evaluation of performance as a means of deconstructing the process of rehearsal and understanding the value of critical feedback. Students will apply the process of Close Study and Informed Performance to the preparation of a piece for performance at a Music Festival. Through the use of rehearsal recordings, students will use tools to guide self-evaluation which in turn will guide their rehearsal process in preparation for performance. After the Music Festival, students will apply the same analysis and adaptation process to application of the judges' comment to further improvement of their performance. Click here to access the full Cornerstone on Canvas.


MU:Pr4.1.E.IIIa: Develop and apply criteria to select varied programs to study and perform based on an understanding of theoretical and structural characteristics and expressive challenges in the music, the technical skill of the individual or ensemble, and the purpose and context of the performance.

MU:Pr4.2.E.IIIa: Examine, evaluate, and critique, using music reading skills where appropriate, how the structure and context impact and inform prepared and improvised performances.

MU:Pr5.3.E.IIIa: Develop, apply, and refine appropriate rehearsal strategies to address individual ensemble challenges in a varied repertoire of music.

MU:Re7.2.E.IIIa: Demonstrate and justify how the analysis of structures, contexts, and performance decisions inform the response to music.