At St. John’s Lutheran School, we strive to educate the whole child. To that end, we offer an Art curriculum for students in grades K-8. Many people think of art is just a “fun” time for kids that is not as critical to education as more “academic” subjects, such as reading and math. However, many studies indicate that students who spend part of their school days regularly studying the fine arts, score significantly higher in tests than those who do not.
There are some good reasons for that. The human brain has two halves; the left brain and the right brain, and they serve different functions. In general, the left brain is dominant in the more analytical and logical tasks, such as language skills, and performing mathematical equations. It is considered the more rational side of the brain. The right brain handles spatial relationships, recognizes faces, processes music, as well as creative thought, and visual imagery. It is also more adept at interpreting context and a person’s tone, and is generally considered the more emotional side of the brain.
Studying art in school not only gives the left brain a break, but helps to develop the skills of the right brain. Experts list the following as the top 10 ways that art, and the fine arts in general, help kids learn and grow:
- Creativity.This may seem like a no-brainer, but the arts allow kids to express themselves better than math or science. If children have practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career.
- Improved Academic Performance.The arts don’t just develop a child’s creativity—the skills they learn because of them spill over into academic achievement. A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.
- Motor Skills. Learning to manipulate a paintbrush and use drawing pencils with proficiency are important elements to developing a child’s fine motor skills.
- Confidence. While mastering a subject certainly builds a student’s confidence, there is something special about participating in the arts. As they improve and see their own progress, their self-confidence will continue to grow.
- Visual Learning. Drawing, painting, and sculpting in art class help develop visual-spatial skills. Children need to know more about the world than just what they can learn through text and numbers. Art teaches students how to interpret, criticize, and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it.
- Decision Making.The arts strengthen problem solving and critical thinking skills. How do I express this feeling through my art? Learning how to make choices and decisions will certainly carry over into their education and other parts of life—as this is certainly a valuable skill in adulthood.
- Perseverance. With practice, children learn that hard work and perseverance pay off. This mindset will certainly matter as they grow—especially during their career where they will likely be asked to continually develop new skills and work through difficult projects.
- Focus. As you persevere through painting, drawing or sculpture, focus is imperative. And certainly focus is vital for studying and learning in class as well as doing a job later in life.
- Collaboration.Many of the arts such as band, choir, and theater require kids to work together. Even in the visual arts, kids work together on projects, and come up with ideas as a team. They must share responsibility and compromise to achieve their common goal. Kids learn that their contribution to the group is integral to its success—even if they don’t have the lead role.
- Accountability. Just like collaboration, kids in the arts learn that they are accountable for their contributions to the group. If they drop the ball or mess up, they realize that it’s important to take responsibility for what they did. Mistakes are a part of life, and learning to accept them, fix them, and move on will serve kids well as they grow older.