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The Critical Role of the Arts Throughout a Whole Child Education

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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. How can we provide students with a well-rounded education that includes learning through and about the arts? How can policy and practice support the integration of arts across the curriculum?

Download this episode of the Whole Child Podcast to learn how the arts can increase students' college-, career-, and citizenship-readiness in all subjects as well as keep them engaged in school and contribute to their social and emotional health. You'll hear from

  • Peter Yarrow, recording artist and founder of Operation Respect and United Voices for Education, who will share the importance and joy of integrating the arts throughout the curriculum to support a respectful, safe, and compassionate climate.
  • Mike Blakeslee, senior deputy executive director and chief operating officer of (Whole Child Partner) MENC: The National Association for Music Education, who will share how policy and practice can support the inclusion and integration of the arts throughout a well-rounded education.
  • Vanessa Lopez, an exceptional arts educator from Roland Park Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, Md., who will share how she is working to integrate the arts throughout the curriculum and the effect that it is having on students.

How are you or how is your school integrating the arts throughout the curriculum? What are the benefits to students?

Comments (10)

The Critical Role of the Arts « Alaska Arts E

October 7, 2010

[...] How can policy and practice support the integration of arts across the curriculum? Download the new Whole Child Podcast to learn how the arts can increase students’ college-, career-, and citizenship-readiness in all [...]

James MacShane

October 7, 2010

I agree with the arts education goals that are being presented. In my arts teaching experience I have come to understand that the arts most important place in human education is in their place in the natural sequence of communication and problem solving,C/PS. The natural C/PS development sequence is body language, oral language, all of the arts, and the abstract written and numerical. It will be the scientific observation of this sequence that is needed for the understanding of the arts most basic natural place in the human intellectual development.

Scientifically the arts are the beginning of all children’s natural conscious development. All children’s play has a roll playing drama aspect in it. They all dance and sing and play rhythm instruments when available and draw and sculpt when media is available. At the age of 2 1/2 to 3 we were all the perfect non-objective artist.

This is the most natural value for the success of the arts in education.


October 8, 2010

I am a string educator/performing artist. I am amazed at how students who labeled with disabilities are so masterful at playing string instruments.  I have also home schooled and have been able to use music as a tool to correlate math, science, history and literature.  Proper string instruction actually stimulates the brain to function the way it is designed to which enhances its development.  The fact that instrumental music provides instant gratification is also remarkable. I love the fact that acquiring musical skill is the only thing that you can do by pushing a button.  You must work at it and my students seem to love being put to the task of working.  They don’t seem to get much of it anywhere else.  There’s far too much busy work in the schools and the kids are just so jaded.
Unfortunately, the institutions of this world are being run by D students who never got beyond the basics and therefore don’t recognize the importance of the arts.

Once a principal told me that while my kids sounded great, they probably wouldn’t be playing in the symphony or teach music, his argument was that requiring them to practice for their grades was excessive. My response was that while the football team was ok, many who sit on the bench won’t go to the NFL or become PE teachers but have to show up at every practice and do the work.

Exemplars and Engagement — Whole Child Education &

October 9, 2010

[...] The Critical Role of the Arts Throughout a Whole Child Education [...]

Building 21st Century Skills: The Importance of Ar

October 13, 2010

[...] conversation is going on now! Download this recent episode of the Whole Child Podcast (from 10/06/10) to learn how the arts can increase students’ college-, career-, and [...]

Beth Burkhauser

October 15, 2010

So happy to see this pod-cast exists!  Integration of the arts a equal partners in education was the last 10 years of my teaching at McNichols Elementry Plaza in Scranton, PA.  As art teacher, the arts were embraced by a team of 6 - 8 teachers and these wonderful teachers linked their curriculum through a school-wide theme:  “Seed, Seasons and Celebrations.” What joy we had discovering in the school garden, drawing and observing nature as scientists and biologists, writing plays and singing, dancing about the changes of the seasons.  Visiting artists helped us create and we sustained a school culture of learning in and through the arts - including dance,visual theatre and music!  Of course, PSSA’s have changed this. I retired in 2005 and the garden still exists but the integration is fading.  Now, in retirement, I direct a growing arts project that challenges students in junior and senior high school to respond to ideas about their interconnectedness.  It’s called the Interdependence Hexagon Project.  From the entries we have received over the past four years,I know that teachers can creatively use this project to broaden their students understandings of many issues - from environment to social justice.  If you go on the website you will see examples of student work in the annual exhibit.  Any medium is acceptable - as long as the down-loadable template is utilized.  We encourage students to work in collaboration.  The prospectus and resources for research and reading [the Interdependence Handbook by Benjamin Barber and Sondra Myers and a bibliography] are on the site .  We have had participation in the four years of its existence, from 20 states, Canada, Nepal, Cameroon, Great Britain and we are hoping for more in 2011.  Website: http://www.interdependencedaynepa.org  You .may also read about the project for 2010 and its connection with Haiti in School Arts Magazine, August-September 2010 issue. I believe in projects such as this and invite educators from all disciplines to become involved! It is a motivating vehicle to foster creative problem-solving thought and action through the visual arts.  Thank you!

Kate Quarfordt

October 16, 2010

What a great podcast! I love the idea of learning both “about AND through” the arts.

It’s wonderful to hear what Vanessa and her colleagues are doing at their school. She made a great point about the power of students using the arts as a way to become comfortable with vulnerability. That definitely resonated with my own experiences teaching theater in the South Bronx. The kids I work with put so much pressure on themselves to put on a tough front and act like nothing bothers them… but just under the surface is this wild swarm of emotion straining to find expression. The arts tap into that emotion and have the potential to alchemize it into something meaningful and powerful.

I also really appreciated how Peter talked about the way the arts help kids integrate the cognitive and the emotional, and how that integration is crucial to developing empathy as the root of civics and citizenship. So cool the way he used his music to tell the story… took this podcast to a whole new level, the same way the arts shift the energy in the classroom.

And with test-prep squeezing out creativity right and left these days, it’s always so invigorating to hear from educators like Mike who are committed to the idea that education should be as rich and complex as the world itself. Sing it, brother!

Kudos, all. Looking forward to next month.

The Arts in Education « Rethinking Education

October 20, 2010

[...] If you have time, the ASCD has even released a podcast on the subject: The Critical Role of the Arts Throughout a Whole Child Education. [...]

Adrian Whitehall

August 26, 2013

Completely agree with you! While popular science is debunking the whole “left brain/white brain” notion, art still plays a huge role in the holistic development of a child’s brain. Our education system unfortunately emphasizes heavily on analytic and critical thinking abilities, while ignoring art since “art” does not necessarily fit into the current world order of “economic” progress.

We need to encourage artistic development and expression if we want our children to develop in a well rounded manner.

bob steele

February 22, 2014

My colleagues and I in the Drawing Network (google us) are working on a book devoted to claiming equal time for Arts subjects and STEM subjects (science, math et al). It was so rewarding to read the inspiring comments of this group of teachers. I hope brief quotes will be okay? My background is the importance of spontaneous drawing as language for all ages. But all arts languages are equally important for a variety of reasons. Our web address is http://drawnet.duetsoftware.net/  Best wishes from Canada.Bob

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