“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”
In the last decade, many public schools across the country have faced budget cuts, forcing them to put some programs on the chopping block. At the same time, new academic standards pushed educators to prioritize some subjects over others. In many schools, arts education was the first program to go. Unsurprisingly, schools in underserved communities are the most likely to have to make hard choices when it comes to allocating their limited financial resources.
While art doesn’t directly improve test scores in core subjects like math and science, it is associated with gains in cognitive ability, verbal skills and critical thinking – skills that are vital for a well-rounded student. According to a literature review from Frontiers in Psychology, several studies link aesthetic experiences such as studying paintings with an improvement in the viewer’s emotional state, which leads to greater physical and mental well-being. Providing students with the opportunity for creative expression can reduce stress levels, improve their memory and enhance engagement and social connections.
On an even bigger scale, appreciation for art makes a big difference in the quality of life in members of a community. One study links participating in arts to higher levels of social tolerance and civic engagement. In other words, learning to appreciate art doesn’t just make us happier and healthier, it actually makes us better people.
How Does Arts Education Help Kids?
While art classes are typically treated as supplemental to other aspects of learning – something to participate in to break up the monotony of the day – the fact is that most Americans consider the arts to be part of a well-rounded education. It enhances the learning experience that children receive and helps to equip them with the tools they need for success, both in the classroom and out.
It Fosters a Positive Culture
Learning and mastering an artistic discipline – whether that’s taking up a new instrument or picking up a paintbrush – motivates students to tackle challenges and grow. It helps to develop character and teaches discipline and attitudes that are necessary for any field.
It Develops Creativity
Being able to think outside the box or consider a problem from a different angle is a crucial skill to develop in a constantly changing world. Arts education fosters that creativity. In fact, students in an arts-rich education program score better on creativity assessments than students with no arts education.
It Supports Higher Levels of Thinking
Studying art teaches students to observe, analyze and interpret the world around them. As it becomes increasingly important but challenging to determine whether facts that we’re exposed to are trustworthy or relevant, developing critical thinking skills is crucial.
It Develops Leadership Skills
Arts education fosters many necessary leadership skills, including planning, decision-making and strategy building. Students can use these skills to develop a stronger sense of identity and learn to convey their ideas in a way that others can understand, enabling them to change their world in a meaningful way.
Art delivers a wide range of advantages for students, particularly those whose only experience with art takes place at school. It enhances creativity, provides an outlet for self-expression and ultimately gives them the tools they need for academic and career success.