Reading, writing, and arithmetic. They are to education what red, yellow and blue are to the color wheel. As a primary foundation, this academic triad laid the groundwork for all subject areas to build upon. Without question, their level of importance is both apparent and necessary.
The same, however, should be said of the arts. A recent New York Times article emphasized the significance of art education and how its arsenal of creative disciplines can truly benefit all academics. With today's modern shift towards science and technology, especially with so much demand placed on both tech and research sectors, educators claim the arts can enhance one's ability to learn such challenging skills. But first, it all starts with the most rudimentary aspects of a discipline, how they are learned and the potential to excel at it. Call it elementary, my dear Watson!
Obviously, more than just ideas are being 'drawn together' here. “I’m talking about everything from music, drama, dance, design, visual arts,” Dr. Paul T. Sowden explained to The Times. The professor of psychology at the University of Winchester in England continued: “You’re looking for opportunities in the arts education context to encourage children to ask questions, to use their imaginations, but also to approach their work in a systematic, disciplined way.”
Such a view offers a clear glimpse into the potential that spans far beyond traditional school subjects. This is especially true of younger children who have been immersed in the arts from their grade school beginnings. With so much more exposure to the arts, these little tykes flourish with an expanded creative and collaborative capacity. Their even more confident in questioning the world around them. Most of all, the progression of arts education is best measured IF it surpasses the elementary pedagogy.
The later years of grade-school education often see a major reduction in creative learning, often yielding to the urgency of their more primary academic counterparts on the grounds of testing. However, efforts are being made to reverse this long-standing trend, because of what the arts bring to the game of retention.
Researchers like Mariale Hardiman, who directs the neuro-education initiative as a professor at the John Hopkins school of education also told The Times, “a lot of the information we teach doesn’t stick.” Recalling her former position as a school principal overseeing an arts-integrated curriculum, “learning became more visible. Her teachers agreed “the children would remember the information better when they taught it through the arts.”
Such personal accounts from those on the front lines of the academic community echo what researchers have been voicing for some time. It’s why there has been such an overwhelming push to institute, and in some cases, reinstitute a greater art education presence among the core curriculums of all grade levels across the country and around the world. There is no denying the arts bring about a more creative approach to learning. But they also help students of all ages to focus on core subjects where greater retention and understanding are paramount to their educational goals, and that of the schools who educate them.
Of course, at home, where parents spend quality time with their children before the days of school, is where the creative seeds are planted. Art activities, of all kinds, are the building blocks to a more fulfilling experience in the lifelong pursuit of knowledge.