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“The Importance of the Arts”
Over the course of the school year, I have been struck by the high level of both the performing and visual arts in my school community. In fairness, it is not a total surprise. Visitors to our campus have an opportunity to see projects that have been drawn and painted by hand or that have been designed and built by wood and clay – all of these items lovingly planned and executed by lower school students. Our youngest students have an eye for color and texture that is well beyond their years. However, the amazing work being done in the performing arts is just as impressive because it provides a creativity of expression in song and movement for students that is also well beyond their years. This is significant because years of research tells us that a strong foundation in the arts provides a direct link to many of the skill sets that we as educators and parents value most as we work together to rear healthy young children. We want students who:
- are innovative
- possess a well-developed EQ (emotional intelligence)
- understand the world is not flat, that there is interconnection between themselves and others; and possess a global perspective
However, the question could be asked, why is a strong arts program essential to the development of the qualities listed above? In my mind the answer is simple. Having a strong arts program in our school’s curriculum is essential because the arts help us to nurture and explore the creative process. Creativity is a twenty-first century buzz word, and yet it is such an important component to the best practices in education. Cornell President, David Skorton, said it best when he said “if science and technology help us to answer questions of what and how, the arts and humanities give us ways to confront the intangible, to contemplate the why, to imagine, to create.” Therefore, having a strong arts program is not only essential, but also provides opportunities for students to look broadly outside themselves as they create, explore, and imagine endless possibilities.
For many schools across the country, the question of how to provide the essentials in education is also coupled with what we take away during the day. In my school, arts education is an integral part of what we believe is necessary to a well-rounded K-8 program. Ultimately, good art education is another learning tool that we use to differentiate learning for students who come alive through self-expression. Many of the lower school performances this year have created wonderful opportunities for students to not only show their musical talents: singing, playing the recorder, or the performance a specific dance number. But students have also been given opportunities to create amazingly detailed pieces of artwork that incorporate a variety of shapes, colors, textures, and patterns.
In the Lower School, I believe it is important in visual and well as performing arts classes to learn techniques specific to the medium being studied (i.e. drawing, mixing paint, how to center a pot, learning a new dance, memorizing lines for the play). However, our students are also learning how to be engaged and active thinkers. The cognitive habits that they acquire during art class are very different from the ways that we ask them to think during even math and reading. I am extremely proud of the arts program in my school primarily because I truly believe our students are gaining the necessary tools that they will need in order to become the innovators that we need moving forward in the twenty-first century. tlb