Monday, June 27, 2011

Making the Case for Fine Art in the Classroom

This summer I'm serving as the Arts Integration Specialist for a Thriving Minds summer camp in Dallas.  It's a wonderful program where core content curriculum (math, language arts, science, and social studies) and fine arts disciplines (including dance, theater, music, visual art and more) are integrated by combining a teacher from each discipline together to team-teach a single class.  The content teacher has the class solo for the first couple of hours, then a fine arts teacher joins the class and they team-teach the same content from a fine arts perspective, and then the students have a studio time at the end of the day to just focus on the arts process.  I went to a few days of training this past week, and Tuesday and Wednesday I'll be helping to train other teachers before camp starts next week.  This whole process has got me really thinking about the value of arts education and how to get that across to the parents, teachers, and adminstrators I work with.  I came across this summary as part of a report on the Katy ISD website and thought it was worth passing along.

The following are findings reported in Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning  (Fiske, 1999) that should be noted by every parent, teacher, and administrator:
  • The arts reach students not normally reached, in ways and methods not normally used.  (This leads to better student attendance and lower dropout rates.)
  • It changes the learning environment to one of discovery.  (This often re-ignites the love of learning in students tired of just being fed facts.)
  • Students connect with each other better.  (This often results in fewer fights, greater understanding of diversity, and greater peer support.)
  • The arts provide challenges to students of all levels.  (Each student can find his/her own level from basic to gifted.)
  • Students learn to become sustained, self-directed learners.  (The student does not just become an outlet for stored facts from direct instruction, but seeks to extend instruction to higher levels of proficiency.)
  • The study of the fine arts positively impacts the learning of students of lower socioeconomic status as much or more than those of a higher socioeconomic status.  (Twenty-one percent of students of low socioeconomic status who had studied music scored higher in math versus just eleven percent of those who had not. By the senior year, these figures grew to 33 percent and 16 percent, respectively, suggesting a cumulative value to music education.)
I think that's pretty compelling evidence, but even more compelling to me is being in that classroom and seeing the light bulb turn on for a kid who's been struggling with some content.  In today's multi-media age of embedded videos, photo sharing, and sound bites, I think a gounding in the arts may be more important than ever.

1 comment:

  1. Mark I would heartily agree with you that art can really help to open up some kids who are struggling academically. They stumble through school not meshing in math, science, history or English and when exposed to the opportunity to be creative, suddenly open up. They revel in the ability to do something well creating something entirely from their own mind. The math or science whiz may on the other hand struggle with art. We are all wired differently, and art can really help to level the playing field and challenge kids to do well.