Posted on 08/26/2013 at 03:08 PM by Liz Determan

Fine Arts Alignment with Iowa Core Universal Constructs


The 21st Century Universal Constructs, as defined by the Iowa Department of Education (,are critical thinking, complex communication, creativity, collaboration, flexibility & adaptability, and productivity & accountability. The Visual Arts in the Iowa Core team, in conjunction with Art Educators of Iowa, has developed a Fine Arts Alignment with the Iowa Core Universal Constructs. This document will help fine arts teachers align their instruction to these universal constructs. Additionally, the document shows that the fine arts support the implementation of the Iowa Core, and that the fine arts are very well suited in supporting students in developing the universal constructs.


The strategies are organized by a K-5 and a 6–12 grade band. The emphasis is not on what to teach, but rather on how to teach it. Some questions that art teachers can ask, according to this document, are:

1.             What do you want your students to know?

2.             How are you going to know if they have learned/are learning the information?

3.             What are you going to do if the students are not learning?

4.             What are you going to do with the students who already know what is being taught?


Also in the document are instructional examples of elementary, middle, and high school lessons for an Iowa Universal Construct. An example, from page 24 of the document follows:


Visual Arts Exemplar of Intentional Instruction of the Construct


Creativity incorporates curiosity and innovation to generate new or original thoughts, interpretations, products, works, or techniques. Creativity is nurtured, advanced, and modeled through numerous approaches, including inquiry-based learning, abstract thinking, and student-focused learning.

4th Grade
8th Grade
12th Grade
Sample 1: students imagine a Purple-Urple-Durple, a unique creature that has never been views by human eyes. The class brainstorms possible appearances for the creature, including combinations of animal and insect parts. Using purple paint, the students paint the creature as they imagine it.
Sample 1: Students engage in the creative thinking process states—research, incubation, insight and validation—by transforming a contour drawing of popcorn into an original creation with an accompanying environment.
Sample 1: Students create a cast of their own body using packing tape and plastic wrap. Students adorn their sculpture with various two-dimensional imagery and/or three-dimensional objects that symbolically speak to the artists’ identity. This embellishment can be made to the interior (as the cast is removed from the body and remains hollow and transparent) or to the exterior of the created form.

The standards, divided into elementary, middle, and high school are available at this Web site. Read the defined Universal Constructs. The National Art Education Association has created a 21st Century Skills Arts Map that you can find here: 21st Century Skills Map for the Arts.

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