Friday, September 16, 2016

DEL Celebrates Arts in Education

The arts are an essential part of a complete education, no matter if it happens in the home, school, or community. Students of all ages—from kindergarten to college—benefit from artistic learning, innovative thinking, and creativity. Celebrating National Arts in Education Week is a way to recognize this impact and share the message with friends, family, and communities.

National Arts in Education Week is a national celebration recognizing the transformative power of the arts in education. Designated by Congress in 2010 through House Resolution 275, the celebration is designated to bring attention to this cause for elected officials and educational decision makers across the country and to support equitable access to the arts for all students.

So what makes art so important to a child’s education?
How does learning how to draw, paint, dance or sing help children in their other subjects as well as in life in general? For children across all physical and mental abilities, various art mediums allow children the freedom to express their ideas and emotions that more structured educational subjects don’t. 

 When there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” answer, children have the freedom to think differently.

In standard subjects such as social studies or mathematics—there are generally, right and wrong answers and hence it is much easier to quantify the level of proficiency in these subjects. The problem is that creativity, ingenuity and perseverance are not skills that are easy to quantify. Whereas, test results can “prove” proficiency in traditional subjects like math and reading comprehension.

But how do you teach skills and mental habits that are invaluable life skills such as problem solving, creativity, perseverance, or dedication? 
Photo courtesy of Kaleidescope Play and Learn, Thurston County
Through studying art and seeing a different perspective or practicing paint brush techniques—children gain skills and personal habits that help them in other areas of their education and life.

In addition, many students struggle with the structure and rigorous requirements of subjects like math, science or reading. But a child that loves to dance, draw or play an instrument can get lost in these activities for hours because they enjoy what they are doing. A child that has fun in creating a work of art or performing in a music or dance recital will learn the importance of perseverance, giving and receiving feedback, and the importance of dedication. A child’s self-confidence can’t help but flow into other areas his/her life.

So maybe the importance of art in a child’s education isn’t easily quantifiable or even going to provide the same benefits to each child. Perhaps the benefits of art education won’t sift out into a tidy equation. But, like art, the intangible skills, perspective and personal habits would be evident if children never got to experience, create or participate in it.

Introducing art in early education can contribute positively to*: 

  • Fine motor skills. Grasping pencils, crayons, chalk and paintbrushes helps children develop their fine motor muscles. This development will help your child with writing, buttoning a coat and other tasks that require controlled movements.
  • Cognitive development. Art can help children learn and practice skills like patterning and cause and effect (i.e., “If I push very hard with a crayon the color is darker.”). They can also practice critical thinking skills by making a mental plan or picture of what they intend to create and following through on their plan.
  • Math skills. Children can learn, create and begin to understand concepts like size, shape, making comparisons, counting and spatial reasoning.
  • Language skills. As children describe and share their artwork, as well as their process, they develop language skills. You can encourage this development by actively listening and asking open-ended questions in return. It is also a great opportunity to learn new vocabulary words regarding their project (i.e., texture). 
*Courtesy of Michigan State University. 

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