The Benefits of the Arts in Education
The current COVID19 pandemic has transformed the way children are taught. It has placed an undue burden on parents who are already frazzled by all the challenges this crisis has caused. Parents and other caregivers who have been put in charge of supervising the home online learning environment will undoubtedly feel stressed trying to comply with all the demands of what in many cases is supervising different levels, grades, materials and personalities. So here I am asking you to take yet one more thing into consideration – Make sure your children have access to creative and artistic outlets in their learning environments. Over the past decade or so, as schools focused more and more on test scores and less and less on deep and authentic learning, we saw a sharp decline in the trend of school districts cutting or severely curtailing the arts from their standard curriculums. The visual and performing arts were cut for many of our students nationwide.
We know that the arts are fun for kids of all ages. It is ingrained in us. Feeling the squishiness of finger paints, whirling with wild abandon as we dance to our favorite music, making instruments out of pots and pans and other household items, and reciting impassioned soliloquies as they ask for something that they want are all things that kids do naturally and that we have all experienced when we were children. But the visual and performing arts are not just for play. They are also an intrinsic and critical way to help children and adult learners develop and grow on many fundamental levels.
The arts help improve children’s academic performance by helping them expand their innate creative ability. A report published by the Americans for the Arts stipulates that “that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.”
As many of us who have been thrust into the online world of work or study have discovered, it is so easy to lose focus and concentration. We know all too well that concentration and focused learning and effort go hand-in-hand with the learning process. It certainly is imperative and vital not only in the school setting but also later on in life as they enter the working world. Focus. When you expose children to painting, learning a part in a play, singing, or dancing you will notice that their focus becomes sharper because they are actually doing something enjoyable which to them is play but is actually a valuable tool for improving the learning experience
Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development discusses the ramifications of experiential learning. Drawing, painting, and sculpting help to develop visual-spatial skills, especially in young children. Children’s learning experiences cannot be limited by what they can learn through text and numbers. They need to know more about their surroundings and the world in general in order to improve their critical thinking skills. Education in the arts teaches students how to interpret, criticize, and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it.
The development of motor skills applies mostly to younger children who do art or play an instrument. Simple things like holding a paintbrush and scribbling with a crayon are critical elements in developing a child’s fine motor skills. It is also an important element in rehabilitative therapies for people who need to improve or regain mobility in their upper limbs.
I know all too well from personal experience that the arts can be frustrating, difficult, challenging, and many other disheartening adjectives. But perseverance and hard work eventually pay off. They also strengthen critical thinking and problem-solving skills. While; How can I tone down this green? Why does my house seem to be flying off my page? may seem to be non-consequential problems they help develop hands-on approaches to remedy a situation which in turn helps develop valuable skills which carry on to adulthood and other parts of life. Growing up in the 60s, the development of social consciousness and activism was fast becoming a banner cry for adolescents and young adults. The arts help us learn that we are accountable for our contributions to our social groups and the world at large and that it was important to take personal responsibility for our work and our actions. Making mistakes is part of growing up and life in general. The arts help us to learn from our mistakes, to accept and take responsibility for them, and most importantly to fix them and move on instead of perseverating on them.
If you are anything like me and live with the albatross of self-doubt hanging from your neck, practicing the arts helps to build confidence. While in High School, I participated in the Glee Club, even though I couldn’t read music, my meager singing skills were nowhere near that of my much more talented friends, and the thought of getting up on a stage and performing totally petrified me. I persevered and eventually, my voice did not sound like the musical strains of alley-cats fighting for their turf. As far as the stage fright, I took off my glasses and blindly followed the person in front of me while climbing on the risers. I figured that if I couldn’t see the audience, I could convince myself I was wailing away in my bedroom grooving along to the music coming from my little pink record player. The arts provide an outlet for children to express themselves in their own unique way. They will realize that there are many ways to portray an idea, solve a problem and see things from a different perspective. This goes a long, long way toward developing tolerance for things that are different than the way we see them and learning to respect alternative ideas.