How to Promote the Arts in Schools

Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Virginia has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Development and a Ph.D. in English

It is well-documented that experiences in the arts are of benefit to children's well-being and educational development. How can we promote the arts in our schools to help provide these valuable opportunities for tomorrow's citizens?

Value of the Arts

The arts in various forms - music, theater, dance, and visual art - represent some of the most fundamental activities in the history of human civilization. Cave art, religious ceremonies, ritual dances, and making music have been with us since before recorded history. These activities provide people of all ages a chance to use the imagination and develop creative skills. Participation in the arts can also promote creative problem solving, a crucial skill for today's complex and ever-changing world.

Critical thinking skills crucial for higher-level analysis expected of students at the high school and college level can also be associated with participation in the arts. Putting together all the elements of a dance production, a music concert, or a play requires a similar process to solving the problems adults encounter in the workplace. This collaborative effort also promotes teamwork, a desired skill in today's fast-paced careers.

Sometimes participation in the arts is an individual endeavor, developing a child's mind and body. Working on visual art and craft projects promotes hand/eye coordination and confidence.

Visual Arts
art activities

Playing an instrument promotes these same skills, as well as the mutual effort of coordinating several instruments into a band or orchestra.

Dancing comes naturally to children; if you are a classroom teacher, you know how much your students want to move! And you don't have to be a dancer yourself to use organized movement activities with your students. There are many sources online for simple movement exercises.

Children Want to Move
Natural Dancers

Offering dance in the schools as a course or extracurricular option helps fill the need of particular children and teens to be on the move. These students often improve their behavior and academic performance when given the opportunity to use their kinetic energy.

There are psychological benefits to arts programs as well. Anything creative that students enjoy doing can serve as stress relief for all ages. It may be hard to realize that even elementary school students experience high levels of stress, but consider all the difficult and frightening situations our children may deal with in the world we live in. Sometimes the time a child spends drawing, singing, or acting out a scene helps that child cope with stress. The various art forms can also be used to help students explore their own identity and learn about themselves and others. In our global community connected by the internet, understanding of other cultures can often come through art forms.

Experiencing Other Cultures
Multicultural Awareness

Keeping the Arts Alive

So if we acknowledge the value of experiences in the arts, what can we do to promote the arts in our schools? At the most basic level, we can support events already in place. If there is a band concert, drama performance, or art show at your local school, go there! Those who argue that the arts are not important in today's world to today's students and parents will often use lack of support as evidence. Show your community that people do, in fact, attend and appreciate these endeavors.

If you are a classroom teacher, it just might be your involvement and support that saves the arts in your school system. Classroom teachers, especially at the elementary school level, can add activities in the arts into their regular curriculum. Acting out a scene from a story read in class can add to the students' understanding. A painting from another time period or culture might create an extra dimension to the study of history or geography. A physical representation, like a mobile or sculpture, might bring to life a lesson on science and space exploration. The possibilities are endless!

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