The Benefits of Integrating Art into the Classroom
April 9, 2013 1 Comment
Did you know that today is National Arts Advocacy Day? Well, I didn’t either until I read The Link Between Art and Education. Not to worry, if you are not able to join the live event on Capitol Hill, you can participate virtually.
In some ways, celebrating the arts with a nationally recognized day is a step forward. Yet, the fact that art (particularly in elementary and secondary education) requires a special day reflects a step backward.
While some look at art as one more thing to fit into the school day, art teachers know that learning to apply human creativity and imagination can actually help kids become better students and better problem solvers.
In a study of 25,000 middle and high school students, those with an art education performed better on standardized tests. In fact, the more art classes a student took, the higher their SAT scores. Other benefits of an art education include improved reading and language skills, improved mathematics skills, improved thinking skills, improved social skills, and a greater motivation to learn – all leading to positive school enrollment.
So, if research proves that drama helps with reading, music helps with spatial-temporal reasoning, and art produces more self-confident and socially tolerant students, why does art take a back seat to other academic subjects?
One reason might be that art is a standalone subject. Students file into the art room, make art, and then file out of the art room. Yet, the strongest benefit of an arts education might be when art is integrated into core subjects. While this takes greater coordination and collaboration amongst teachers, integrating art into the overall curriculum improves a student’s overall learning experience.
My son is turning 7 this week. When he was just a wee little guy of 4, he started taking art classes with me. Although his motivation may have initially come from spending one-on-one time with me, his love for art soon became apparent. Each Saturday for one year we took classes in pottery and drawing. While I was happy to spend this time with my son, I was making up for the lack of art education in his elementary school. In fact, there was one term where students were not graded in art because they did not have an art teacher. Since then, things have started to turn around. We now have an art teacher and I am seeing the benefits of integrating art into the classroom.
Last week my son was chosen to participate in an art exhibit outside of the school. It was a very proud moment for him. Though my son was reluctant to share the context of his art making experience in front of the large gathering of attendees, his art teacher chimed in.
Turns out my son’s art teacher recognized the tremendous amount of time and energy teachers were dedicating to reading, writing, and the mechanics of putting words together. His art teacher took this bit of knowledge and found a way to extend the learning by having students make art out of words. In doing so, my son’s art teacher took the kids to a new dimension by helping them mix and match words, colors, and shapes in unexpected ways.
At first the children were hesitant to go beyond the boundary of how they were accustomed to working with letters and words. But soon, many took to the concept and produced abstract works of art that brought words to a different level of meaning. My son explained that writing words on a horizontal line was so ingrained that producing words that broke the plane took some time to get accustomed to. But, once he did so the freedom of working outside the lines spurred him to choose colors that brought out shapes in the words.
In short, art gives students a pathway for exploration, for thinking flexibly, and for making connections between seemingly unconnected things. These are all skills we are looking for in our future leaders. And, if the benefits of art sound familiar, it could be that you are hearing this grouping of skills more and more these days – think creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Kudos to art teachers. Enjoy Arts Advocacy Day!