Teaching the Arts in Schools: Why is it Important?
As school budgets are cut and with the emphasis on math and science, many schools are forced to trim away at their art curriculum. The arts may seem like a fun break from learning and unimportant to student success in our technological world, but the arts play a very important role in the development of a child. Art is much more than looking at pretty pictures, drawing, playing music or acting.
Why teach the arts?
Aside from the cultural and aesthetic value of the arts, research indicates that learning about and participating in the them contributes to the child’s development and well-being. Studies indicate that art helps individuals learn to cope and understand the complexities of life. For children, who are still developing language and communication skills, it is also an important means of expression.
Studying and practicing the arts, whether or not a person intends to pursue them as a career, has the following benefits:
- Development of motor skills
- Development of cognitive functioning — a child’s ability to be creative in their actions and thoughts. The thinking skills that are improved through the arts translate to other academic subjects, including reading and math.
- Develops of perceptual skills
- Builds confidence and self-expression
- Improved motivation to learn
- Provides a means of expressing what a child cannot communicate verbally
- Deeper understanding of culture, human behavior and history
Who benefits from learning art?
The arts are vital to development, and help young children improve their motor skills, visual-spatial skills, critical thinking and creativity. Students who learn the arts are more motivated to participate in science fairs, attend school and succeed academically, and are more likely to graduate from college than their peers who did not receive art education, according to Americans for the Arts.
Particularly for “at-risk” students and those of low-socioeconomic status, research shows that the arts improve academic outcomes, encourage higher career goals and foster civic engagement, according to the National Endowment for the Arts.
The arts foster collaboration between students, encourage team-building and challenge young people in ways they may not be challenged in other classes. It is a tool for teaching tolerance of and respect for another person’s creative process or way of thinking, and opens the door to a world of culture and history students may not be familiar with.
While art can be a very collaborative process, it also encourages self-reliance and self-motivation, according to some studies. Playing an instrument or dancing requires practice and devotion in order for a child to improve.
A child does not have to be an expert in the arts to reap these benefits. Art not only has aesthetic value, but is important to cognitive thinking and self-expression. It transcends language, and helps people open up and communicate with one another in a different way.
The arts help students look at the world in a way that leads to recognition of different types of expression, representations of culture, history and the self. It is a way of enriching an individual child and a community, and the benefits of an arts education last a lifetime.
Caption: A young girl paints during art. Credit: Amanda Sicard / Flickr