This month, the Whole Child Blog has been focusing on the critical role of the arts throughout a whole child education. The arts play an essential role in providing each student with a well-rounded education that meets the needs of the whole child. Although classes strictly focused on music, visual arts, drama, dance, and art history are critical, integrating the arts across the curriculum is also key to ensuring that students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with guests Peter Yarrow, recording artist and founder of Operation Respect and United Voices for Education; Mike Blakeslee, senior deputy executive director and chief operating officer of (Whole Child Partner) MENC: The National Association for Music Education; and Vanessa Lopez, an exceptional arts educator from Roland Park Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, Md.
Learn about the connection between creativity and the brain with guest blogger Judy Willis, ASCD author and expert on learning-centered brain research. Read the first, second, third, and final posts in the series.
Find resources for arts and arts-integrated educational content for students, families, and educators looking for lesson plans, multimedia-enhanced instruction, and performance footage on Whole Child Partner the Kennedy Center's ARTSEDGE website.
Think about the research-based benefits of arts education experiences and how the arts engage students in ways that other subjects may not, providing ways into learning that compliment learning styles and encourage creative risk taking.
Discuss whether or not public education is educating children out of their creativity after listening to an engaging presentation by Sir Ken Robinson. How can schools do a better job of recognizing and encouraging creativity during class to stimulate thinking and as preparation for the future work arena?
Support and advocate for all core academic subjects—English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography—that make up a well-rounded approach to education.
Sign the Whole Child Petition to tell your state board of education that it must do more to educate the whole child.
- A free Artful Teaching & Learning Handbook for blue prints to create a versatile arts education model from the Perpich Center for Arts Education (PCAE).
- Whole Child Partner Americans for the Arts' fact sheet about the benefits of arts education for children.
- Six issues of the University of California's Journal for Learning through the Arts: A Research Journal on Arts Integration in Schools and Communities. Check out the current issue's spotlight on arts and geography.
- An issue of KidSpirit Online, a magazine and community for 11–15 year olds everywhere, focused on self exploration and finding one's spirit in art.
- Findings from an IBM study showing creativity to be the most important leadership quality for success in business.
- A research paper on integrating the arts and how the arts impact social, cognitive, and academic skills.
What could a focus on the arts look like at your school? The PS22 Chorus is an elementary school chorus from Public School 22 in Staten Island, N.Y. It is composed of 60–70 fifth-graders, and is directed by Gregg Breinberg ("Mr. B."), who started blogging and created a YouTube channel to promote the benefits of keeping the arts an integral part of the school curriculum. As of this month, the chorus's videos have been watched more than 23,000,000 times.
In Choral Director, the choral director's management magazine, Mr. B. talks about the importance of integrating the arts throughout the curriculum:
I hope that these kids take away a confidence, a sense of empowerment, and a sense that anything is possible. That last bit is certainly more along the lines of the last few years because of the amazing opportunities we've had, but I don't want this chorus to be just about the exposure that these kids are getting. I do think it's so important that this is blowing up at a point where our budget is a mess and music and arts programs are being cut left and right, so in a sense, globally, with the success, I'd love to keep people thinking about how important music is. I don't think anyone can miss by watching how those kids sing how important it is to them, how it keeps kids wanting to come to school. Every kid in my chorus will tell you that they look forward to coming to school. That's something we take a lot of pride in because we just happen to be a school that really subscribes to the arts.
We've also used the music to teach other areas of the curriculum. The kids learned PEMDAS through rhythm equations that I made. I try to keep things fun and keep the students on their toes. I want them to love music, learn, be engaged, and I want them to come to school. When you take the arts out of schools, there's a risk of drop outs, especially among children who maybe don't have great parental support and might be saying to themselves, "Why am I going to this place where I'm not succeeding, I'm made to feel like an idiot, there's nothing I do well in this life, and I have to come back tomorrow to feel like an idiot again?" I want to reach these kids, and a lot of the children in my chorus do not necessarily succeed in other academic areas as well as they and their families would like. It's so important that we tap into other avenues that kids are capable of succeeding in. I think that every one of these kids in my chorus has something to offer. Maybe they don't have that prodigious, exceptional vocal talent, but there's more behind the music that these kids are tapping into within themselves. They're amazing people and that's a part of it, too. I want them to be open to each other. I want them to be open to life and to new things.
How are you or how is your school integrating the arts throughout the curriculum? What are the benefits to students?