Saturday, April 22, 2017

Why The Fine Arts Are Important to Your Child's Education

The greatest tool you can use to help your children grow is something that doesn’t appear on any standardized test. It’s creativity, and it’s something we as humans are born with. Creativity affects the way we learn and grow; it can be applied to any subject at will and teaches us that even within rigid structures there is a freedom of movement to make something new.

How do I know this? Show a child a painting and ask them to tell you what it is about. No two kids will have the exact same reaction and they will talk to you about what they see. You may be surprised at their interpretation because children are not bound by adult knowledge of the world. Picasso once said "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."

Take your children to see a play and ask them what they liked. Processing visual cues and interpreting vocals train our brains to pick up on nuances about relationships, music, and emotion. Have a child listen to music or play an instrument and they will hear things we never even thought were possible.

New brain research shows that not only does music improve skills in math and reading, but also it promotes creativity, social development, personality adjustment, and self worth. Our interpretation, as individuals with independent creative thought, can be as varied as the snowflake patterns that fall from the sky and as vast as the molecules within and around us.

I’ve watched this in my own children when they bring home artwork from school. I have a pile in my office of their different stages of life; from scribbles to actual people, their perception of the world is shaped by what they see, hear, smell, and touch.  Walk down the hallway of an elementary school and you’ll see their personalities in their artwork bursting with individuality.

Teachers use creativity in their classrooms on a daily basis. They create lessons centered on an individual’s thought or perception of a concept. Students demonstrate this in projects and performances, critiques and discussion.  We know for a fact that promoting the arts in education helps students succeed in other subjects. In fact, students who study art are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and three times more likely to be awarded for school attendance.

So we know that the arts are important but what is the first thing government tries to do when there is a budgeting issue? Cut programs for the arts. President Trump took funding from the National Endowment of the Arts so that he could buy bigger bombs and build walls. It seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it? They want to make America great again but in the process eliminate these programs from our children’s lives.They see self-expression as an unwanted attribute and they fail to see the connection between creativity and success.

Students in high school see the value in science, math, and English so much so that they believe doubling up on these subjects will make them better students. Standardized tests only measure a student's ability to complete these tasks with a certain level of aptitude. But ask any employer what they are looking for in an employee and attention to detail and an ability to work outside of the box are must haves.

Let's consider the funds that the government sets aside for the arts to determine their worth. Federal funding for the arts and humanities rolls in around $250 million a year, while the National Science Foundation is funded around the $5 billion mark. So while people understand the need for fine art education, they don’t invest in it nearly as much despite knowing the benefits.

How do we combat this violation of our need to be creative? Get our children involved in as many fine art education programs as possible. Encourage them to take an art, music, or theater class despite their perceptions of their strengths or weaknesses. Everyone is creative in their own way and kids need that outlet in order to grow.

Visual art helps develop eye-hand coordination and because projects are mostly log term, they learn how to develop something to completion and tackle how to meet problems head on by thinking outside of the box and solving complex issues.

Music teaches them focus and concentration. As with any performance, repetition and practice until a song is mastered teaches children self-discipline and promotes a passion for something people use in their daily lives.

Theater teaches social skills and interpersonal communication. Interacting with a cast and creating everything from backdrops to props to costumes means they are building an attention to detail to make their craft as realistic as possible.

Dance teaches an awareness of their body and the expression that flows through it. Dance can be interpretive or choreographed and provides opportunities for a declaration of feelings through movement when being static just isn't your strong suit.

Theater, movies, and the culture around fine arts permeate everything in our culture that we value. Actors and actresses, artists and musicians claim high praise in our hearts and minds. Music, art, dance, and theater represent our past, present, and future; they remind us of moments in our lives and activate our memories.

So how do we encourage our children to follow the creative path? We become their agents, their coaches, their mentors and their muses. No uttered word should be ignored. No sour note left unheard. No scribble is insignificant. For a child, exploration through the fine arts will open doors that may have been previously shut or most likely unseen. We owe it to our children to keep the arts alive.

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