Several area elementary and high schools will soon feel the impact of a summer wave of arts programs designed to enlighten teachers and students alike about the relevance of the arts to the basics of education.

A major goal for two such programs in the District is to incorporate the experiences of the participants in their school curriculums. One of the programs, "Design Wise," initiated at the National Building Museum, is a model for a national effort to introduce a broad range of design concepts into the biology, social studies and arts curriculums of high schools.

The other, "Scoring High with Art in the Basics," a program at the Art Barn that is aimed at elementary and high school teachers, uses art history, instruction and appreciation activities as bridges to the fundamentals taught during the regular school year.

Eight area English, reading and math teachers completed the 45-hour course at the Art Barn, a nonprofit organization that produces exhibits, poetry readings and concerts and organizes educational programs.

While earning three credit hours of postgraduate work and recertification credit under D.C. schools' staff development program, the teachers visited area museums, heard lectures and saw demonstrations by art historians, curators and artists.

"We think teachers need to know what resources are available in the community as learning labs for the students," said James Guines, associate superintendent of instruction for the D.C. schools. His office approved the course as recertification credit for teachers two years ago. "We have certified many programs like this, but {the Art Barn course} is unique in that it teaches art and is hands-on."

Ann Bray, who designed and organized the Art Barn program, said, "We wanted to reach those teachers who did not teach art."

"When students go to an art class, they expect to have some contact with the arts, but when they go to an English or math class, they could not see the relationship between the arts and those disciplines. They would not be able to see the relationship between an abstract painting and mathematics, for example," Bray said.

One of the specific projects the course suggested is a student curated exhibition. "This year when we're reading Sherlock Holmes, the students will do an exhibition on Victorian England," said Mary Jane Cox, librarian and literature teacher at the Hardy Middle School in Northwest. "It helps to give the kids something to look for when they are looking at art, because usually they would look for five minutes {in a museum} and think they were done, because they didn't know what to look for."

National Building Museum's "Design Wise" program also aims to illuminate the connections between disciplines traditionally cordoned off from each other. Fifteen high school teachers from six area schools participated in the two-phase course. In the first week, three design consultants from Great Britain discussed how design theory, product and graphic design, and architecture can be introduced into standard courses such as biology, social studies and art.

"Everything around us has been designed, and there is very little in school that teaches about design, although the design of these objects can tell us a lot about society," said Anna Slafer, education coordinator at the National Building Museum. "The same goes for biology, and the designs found in living things."

Sixty area high school students took part in the second week of the prototype program. They were divided into six groups, each of which studied a neighborhood or institution.

One of the groups studied museum exhibits as tools for communication, while another observed the Metro system. In each case, the students interviewed the users and designers of the system, and composed a multimedia presentation of their evaluation with proposals for improvement.

"The goal is to increase design awareness in students so they can better understand and utilize the technology around them," said Slafer. The teachers will be assisted during the school year by six area design consultants.

There are some problems involved in such projects, because of traditional divisions between subjects such as English and biology, but in many schools, the framework is already there.

"Some teachers are trying to go across the curriculum, with a science teacher and a social studies teacher working together," Slafer said.

The Art Barn course also emphasized traditional avenues through which innovative approaches can travel. "There are so many wonderful resources for the schools in this city, places classes could go," said Bray, touting field trips.

One of the criticisms of the course, Bray said, was that there was so much to cover that it was difficult to go into anything in enough depth.

The attempt to break down some of the walls built with such calculation and logic over time between different academic disciplines is a fairly new approach. The Art Barn program just completed its second year, accredited by Trinity College, while "Design Wise" will be implemented into course work this school year for the first time. "This is definitely research and development," said Slafer.

"These teachers really work hard to make their classroom learning important for the students," said Bray. "It has a ripple effect -- the teacher injects the love and appreciation of the arts into the students, and the students go out and find their own love of the arts."