ARTS EDUCATION Hell yeah, we need it!

Neve Spicer is an arts education advocate, veteran music teacher, child development research nerd, and mother of three. Before going into teaching she was a professional oboist who toured with various orchestras and bands. To tie in with Arts in Education Week (September 13 – 19), the founder of WeTheParents, a parenting resource and blog that searches for simplicity and humour in family life, shares why, in this day and age of funding cuts to arts education, we should explore arts education as a valuable resource worth saving.

The arts play a tremendous role in gathering and inspiring people around the world. A love of getting creative often starts young, and arts education is one place where the seeds of youthful talent can grow into something greater. That’s not all there is to love about arts education, though. Research studies have demonstrated that studying art, music, and theatre in school has major potential to aid healthy child development.

Sadly, even with this in mind, dwindling school budgets leave arts programs in the lurch. They’re some of the first to be cut when funding drops, and they’re also the classes that get left behind in favour of “core academic” subjects like maths and the sciences. This leaves kids in the vulnerable position of missing out on a part of their curriculum that can benefit them physically, mentally, and socially.

Activism aimed at saving arts education has been ignited worldwide, as seen this September 13-19 during the US Arts in Education Week. It’s a great time to learn more about how art education benefits kids, how to advocate for arts in the classroom, and to celebrate the arts in all their forms.

Though the study of art comes with some obvious benefits, like improved skill through practice and opportunities for creative expression, the best of what it has to offer is less obvious on the surface.

  • Boosts visual and spatial reasoning: Visual and spatial reasoning are the skills that are used when determining the position of an object in space. They’re often associated with STEM skills, particularly engineering, and they can be bolstered in the arts classroom. Participation in sculpting, drawing, beading, and music classes are all associated with improvement in these
  • Improves sense of well-being: As one study revealed, participating in fun learning activities on a regular basis leads to a reduction in feelings of low well-being. As a non-academic, participatory, and self-expressive means of learning, art, music, and theatre classes hit all the marks for achieving these good feelings.
  • Helps learn to resolve conflict: Dealing with conflict is a natural part of life, but those who don’t learn to resolve it in a healthy way are prone to long-term problems in their relationships, friendships, jobs, and interactions. Research has determined that time spent learning and participating in art classes is associated with an improvement in conflict resolution ability, a valuable skill that may be naturally encouraged by group participation.
  • Improves literacy and creative writing skills: Reading, writing, and interpreting text all use language skills, which are foundational in learning. While some children come by these skills naturally, others have a harder time mastering the written and spoken word. Theatre arts, a branch of arts education, has been recognized in studies as having a positive effect on literacy and boosting creative writing skills.
  • Boosts scholastic participation and recognition: Time spent in the arts classroom leaves kids four times more likely to be recognized for their scholastic merit and thrice as likely to hold class office, as studies by Carnegie Hall and Stanford University have revealed.¬†Kids are also more likely to have a good attendance record, less likely to drop out, and more likely to enrol in higher education.

A remarkable number of studies associate arts education with positive outcomes for kids, as this visualization indicates.

Keeping this in mind, the need to stand up for arts education is clear. It’s a part of curriculum that needs to stay around, and moreover be given the funding and time that research makes clear it deserves. To get involved with arts education advocacy in Australia, visit the National Advocates for Arts Education website.