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Redefining Education Through the Arts

In recent years, new programs regarding arts education have begun surfacing in an effort to create a more holistic education approach for students. While standard education teaches children the necessary foundation in subjects like math and science, many schools believe incorporating arts education programs to work in tandem with standard education practices is essential for shaping well-rounded students. Private schools are leading the charge in adopting innovative arts programs to deliver a much more holistic and robust education experience to their students. It is important to explore the benefits of an arts education, as well as what some schools are doing to incorporate it into their curriculum.

What is Art Education?

Art education is educational instruction and curriculum based on using the visual and performing arts to supplement standard learning experiences. This type of education includes performing arts such as dance, music, and theatre, as well as visual arts like drawing, painting, and sculpting. Some newer trends in art education also include photography, video, film, and graphic design.

Brain Development

One of the most imperative roles for an education center is to make sure the minds of students are being stimulated, ultimately enabling those students to continuously develop their brains as they begin to mature. Arts education is one of the best ways to ensure this is happening. During a child’s early years, their brain is in a process of “blooming,” essentially forming neural connections at a rapid rate. The School Superintendents Association (AASA) emphasizes that many areas of the brain are developed as children learn through arts education. Learning songs and rhymes helps to improve long-term memory, and dancing and painting improve both fine and gross motor skills (Rinne et al., 2011). The arts improve cognitive ability by developing essential and higher-order critical thinking skills, such as pattern recognition, forming mental representations of observations and imaginings, as well as finding abstraction from complexity through careful observation of the world around them.

Well-rounded – Contribution to the Whole Child

Not only does arts education improve children’s cognitive ability, but it also contributes to a more well-rounded learning experience for them. Arts education has been known to help children in other academic areas that are typically unassociated with the arts. A study done by Smithrim and Upitis found that students who took part in arts-integrated lessons show increased scores on standardized tests for both language and math classes, as well as an overall improvement in engagement, motivation, and a sense of community within the classroom.

Self-Discipline and Mastery

A key element of maturing for any child is learning to take responsibility and control over themself and their actions. One fundamental aspect of this is learning how to solve their problems and create their solutions rather than relying on a parent or teacher to guide them through problem solving and decision making. Arts education has been proven to positively impact this aspect of children as well. A study done by Chand and O’Neal of almost 900 4th and 5th graders from 32 different schools revealed that students who took part in arts-integrated classrooms were significantly more engaged, creative, and effective at problem-solving than students who did not participate in arts-integrated learning. A study conducted by Oreck proved that (for many of the reasons stated above) arts integration in classroom environments was proven to be extremely effective for students who are at risk of falling behind or even failing classes and entire grade levels.

Emotional/Social Well-being and Development

An extremely vital piece of growing up and maturing for children that is so often ignored by many school curricula is increasing their emotional and social well-being and development. Children must be able to not only be aware and in control of their emotional states but attune to the emotional states of others as well. They need to develop the necessary social skills to interact with others effectively as they get older and more mature. A literature review done by Menzer examined 18 empirical studies on this topic and found that arts education helped young children develop social skills including but not limited to helping, sharing, caring, and empathizing with others. The same study also found that arts education is immensely helpful when it comes to teaching children emotional self-regulation.

Anneliese Schools: Capitalizing on Arts Education

With more and more studies revealing the various benefits of arts education on children, specifically younger children, more and more private schools are making serious efforts to effectively incorporate arts education into their curriculum. Many private schools are making great strides with this and innovating new and unique ways to actively engage their students in arts education. From art journals to creating wall displays and decorative projects, some schools are using arts education to simultaneously benefit their students and use the art for beautifying their campus. Some schools are even taking arts education a step further by offering classroom theatre for students as young as 4 or 5, to help improve their cognitive skills, as well as offering a variety of art media including charcoal, pencils, paint, pastels, ink, canvas and paper, clay, and even wood to further improve their students’ learning experience.

“As someone who has been in education for decades, I firmly believe in the importance and value of arts education,” said Liesa Schimmelpfennig, Research and Development Director at Anneliese Schools. “Anneliese has been promoting and incorporating arts education for nearly 40 years, and our parents and alumni are supporters of the system and proof that it really works.”

Arts education is an extremely important asset for helping students achieve their full potential within the academic environment. This type of education has numerous benefits within the classroom and is a critical element when it comes to social and emotional development as well. With more and more research coming out in support of this type of education, many private schools are making extra efforts to incorporate the arts into their curriculum as much as possible. As more research continues to come out in support of arts education, and as more schools continue to make adjustments to their curriculum to better incorporate the arts, the future of youth education seems to be trending in the right direction.