Art is Smart
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
—Albert Einstein, physicist
Did you know singing, dancing, painting, and make-believe help children learn better in school? Research shows that many young children thrive when their studies include the arts. “Doing” arts also offers important overall life lessons. For example, the arts encourage observing and describing, two skills very useful in any endeavor, whether for work or play. Plus, the arts offer children a constructive means of self-expression, which can lead to self-knowledge and self-confidence.
The effects of arts programs also reach beyond benefits to the individual child. They are a way to build community. Group art-making—a play, a music ensemble, a mural—brings together students with different skills, abilities, and perspectives. Team members learn to respect each other and often become friends. Arts programs also introduce students to different cultures, past and present, so that kids can learn about their own backgrounds and those of others.
Additionally, artworks are meant to be seen or heard by others. When a school exhibits the art created by its students, it draws together the families and friends of the artists in celebration. This type of gathering is a further way of building community and thus strengthening the educational mission of the school.
Here are some helpful tips to tell if your child’s school is arts-friendly:
- Is children’s art on the walls?
- What arts programs and instruction does the school offer?
- Are there full-time arts teachers in music, visual art, dance, theater?
- Do students in every grade receive arts instruction?
- What space is available for arts instruction? If classrooms are not available, can other spaces such as the auditorium, cafeteria, gym, or elsewhere be used?
- Does the school have partnerships with arts organizations?
- Do the kids perform in their own classrooms or for the whole school?
- Are there field trips to concerts and museums?
- Are the arts included in the school’s budget?
- Is there a school arts committee?
- If you have questions about the arts, who is the best person to ask?
- Do teachers and principals want to hear from you?
Whether your child’s school has a lot of arts programming or only a little, most schools can use extra help from parents. Here are some ways you can help support your school
- Offer to hang kids’ artwork in the classroom or hallways.
- Ask questions about the school arts programs at Curriculum Night, Back-to-School Night, or Parent-Teacher Conferences.
- Find out how to start or join an arts committee.
- Offer to bring your artistic skills into the classroom.
- Share the dances, music, or stories from your own culture with students.
- Help organize a family arts celebration with arts activities for all ages, from drawing to dance lessons to group singing. This can also be a fundraiser (although that requires a great deal of organization).
- Volunteer at an arts event by helping with food, transportation, or set-up.
- Ask a school or parent leader to talk about school arts programs at the next PTA meeting.
- Talk to other parents about the arts in school.
These are just a few ideas about how you can help support the arts in your child’s school and to help your child grow academically, emotionally, and socially.