Posted on 04/23/2010 at 08:50 AM by Global Reach

According to David Warlick, nationally known keynote speaker, an education without art is not an education at all (ITEC Conference, October 2009). The arts—visual art, music, dance, and theatre—should be a core component of every education program in the nation. Why are the arts so important? The arts can be used to teach us about our past, they can raise student achievement and intelligence, and can help students to learn higher order thinking and problem solving skills.
 
Culture
Because literature, visual arts, music, dance, and drama are among the highest expressions of every culture and are languages that most people speak, the arts can bring every subject to life and turn abstract concepts into concrete reality.  (New Horizons for Learning, 2006). The arts trigger emotion, which positively impacts the brain. Practice—which most of the arts require—also changes the brain. This effort and focus is healthy, and these findings should be used to defend the importance of the arts in our schools (Zull, 2005). Van Bruskirk (2009) reported that not only did the arts play a significant role in cognitive development, but in social development as well. She wrote, “The arts can be a critical connection for students developing the thinking skills and motivations needed to achieve at higher levels.”
 
One example for using art to promote an understanding of culture is the Room of Wonders that can be found at: http://www.framemuseums.org/sites/room_of_wonders/intro_en.html. Students can search the globe to find where the wonder came from, and learn about the history and impact of this wonder. For the study of biomes, students can determine the biome in which the wonder was originally found, and analyze why it might have been found in that biome and not another.
 
Raise Achievement
The arts have long been known to enhance student achievement (The US Department of Education, 2004). Music has been found to improve the intellectual functioning of children, and has been found to be essential for optimal cognitive development. A music education can benefit students by allowing them to have success in society, school, developing intelligence, and in life (Locklear, 2002). Learning through the arts often results in greater academic achievement and higher test scores (New Horizons for Learning, 2006; Locklear, 2002).
 
Brookes (1997) found that when students had an opportunity to draw the content of science, geography, and social studies, there was a positive difference in the speed of learning and retention. Students with attention problems could learn through drawing and stay on track. After one year of using art through learning, school districts reported as much as 20 percent increases in reading, writing, and math scores.
 
Students who studied and participated in art, music, and drama scored an average of 31 to 50 points higher in math and verbal sections of the SAT than did those students who didn’t engage in the arts. Students involved in the arts also performed more community service, watched fewer hours of television, were happier with their school programs, and were less likely to drop out of school (Van Bruskirk, 2009).
 
An example of using the arts to raise intellectual capacity might be Art Safari which can be found at: http://www.moma.org/interactives/artsafari/index.html. Students can study the animals in these works of art, and write their own story about the animal in its natural biome. They can write their own music, and then record their story with the accompanying music.
 
Another example of using art to study biomes and increase understanding is My Life as an Elk that can be found at: http://www.wildlifeart.org/Learn/Games/ElkStory/. Students could study the biome in which the elk lives. They could study the paintings that were done and find evidence of a particular biome. They could also paint their own pictures of a different animal that might live in several biomes. They would need to choose a specific biome, and paint that animal with the flora of that biome.
 
Higher Order Thinking and Problem Solving
Students need more than just exposure to the arts—they need to participate in the arts, as well. Immersion in music classes can assist in helping students to engage in higher order thinking and problem solving. When students are engaged in music activities, they are experiencing, understanding, performing, analyzing, creating, and evaluating (Locklear, 2002).
 
Landscape Art, found at http://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/classroom_resources/curricula/landscapes/
is an example of using art to promote higher order thinking and problem solving. Students could study a landscape painting and analyze the biome. They could identify specific flora and fauna in the painting that would help them to prove it is a particular biome. They could then paint their own landscape painting of a specific biome.
 
In summary, the arts are not only important because they raise academic scores, but they are important for social well being, cultural awareness, and real-world thinking. “Real-life tasks require constant and complex integration of learning that crosses content area and disciplinary boundaries.  Educators can enhance student learning by creating opportunities for students to make connections between arts content areas and other disciplines across the curriculum” (Maryland Department of Education, 2006).
 
Resources:
 
Brookes, M. (1997). Teaching basics through the arts. Retrieved April 19, 2010 from: http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/arts/brookes.htm.
 
Holcomb, S. (2007). State of the arts. Retrieved April 20, 2010 from: http://www.nea.org/home/10630.htm.
 
Locklear, S. (2002). Research-bassed justification for the Highline School District elementary and secondary school music programs. Retrieved April 19, 2010 from: http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/arts/locklear.htm.
 
Maryland Department of Education. (2006). Benefits of integrating fine arts across the curriculum. Retrieved April 20, 2010 from: http://www.mfaa.msde.state.md.us/source/MDFAintegrating_3a.asp.
 
New Horizons for Learning. (2006). Arts in Education. Retrieved April 19, 2010 from: http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/arts/front_arts.htm.
 
The US Department of Education. (2004, August). The importance of arts education. Retrieved April 19, 2010 from: http://www2.ed.gov/teachers/how/tools/initiative/updates/040826.html.
 
Zull, J. (2005). Arts, Neuroscience, and Learning. Retrieved April 19, 2010 from: http://www.newhorizons.org/neuro/zull_2.htm.

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