Art as a Gateway to Learning
The US Department of Education published a report in 2002 on “The Value Added Benefits of the Arts,” which states, “Studies have shown that arts teaching and learning can increase student’s cognitive and social development. The arts can be a critical link for students in developing the crucial thinking skills and motivations they need to achieve at higher levels” (Deasy, & Stevenson, 2002). The importance of Art in a well-rounded education curriculum can’t be overstated. With recent cutbacks within the formal education system, it may be up to parents to provide their children with opportunities for Art education. These opportunities can be as simple as providing varied materials for exploration at home, or more formal experiences such as after school programs or summer art camps. However the experiences are provided, children gain much from artistic endeavors. These are just a few of the skills children learn from art exposure.
- Art encourages and develops creative thinking: children are asked to “think on their feet” and brainstorm various approaches to a design problem, trying new things and experimenting with the range of materials provided.
- Art provides a means of communication, self-expression, and emotional release: feelings and ideas that children may not yet have words for can be readily expressed through art.
- Art builds confidence: appreciation for their own (and others) creations teaches children to respect the process and the results of their hard work as well as the individuality of others.
- Art teaches perseverance: children get “lost” in the creative process, sometimes working for long periods of time to get the reality to match their vision. This commitment will serve them well in any future project.
- Art increases self-understanding and self expression: having to think about what they want their work to communicate encourages children to really examine their beliefs and emotions.
- Art provides problem-solving and decision-making opportunities: turning their vision for a project into a reality requires children to solve problems repeatedly. Shaping the materials they have into the artwork they see in their head makes them learn how to work within the constructs of the media.
- Art offers feelings of accomplishment: when a project is finished to his or her satisfaction the child feels that their efforts have been worthwhile, encouraging future dedication.
- Art serves as a balance to academic activities: STEM subjects are important, but children need varied experiences in their day as a respite from the intense focus needed in when confronting science, technology, engineering and math problems.
- Art aids physical coordination: fine motor skills andmanual dexterity are improved when children finger paint, or use scissors, paint brushes or other tools.
- Art familiarizes children with receiving feedback: constructive criticism is important in any field the child may choose to pursue as they mature. Learning to appreciate the “constructive” component of that feedback is vital and only comes with exposure.
- Art develops good work ethics, a sense of responsibility and accountability: especially when an artwork is collaborative, children begin to understand the importance of listening to and respecting other’s opinions, and compromising for the greater good, skills that are invaluable as an adult.
- Art aids the adult in understanding and helping the child: emotions revealed through a child’s artwork can be explored and expanded upon through asking open ended questions about the child’s project. Something as simple as “Tell me aboutyour picture/sculpture/song,” can open up lines of communication and offer an invaluable window into the child’s mind.
- Art generates joy: Art is FUN! Children love the tactile experience of exploring various media and getting their hands dirty with no repercussions is an added perk!
As parents and caregivers we must view art not as an afterthought if there is time after the “more important” subjects have been tackled. We must remember that art is vital to the well rounded education of our children.
Remember: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso
For an amazing exploration of traditional craft materials repurposed as fine art, check out a free exhibit running from October 26 thru December 6, 2017 at the Flinn Gallery located in the Greenwich Public Library