Learning and participation in music, dance, theater, and the visual arts are vital to the development of our children and our communities. Through advocacy, research, partnerships, and professional development, Americans for the Arts strives to provide and secure more resources and support for arts education. Visit AmericansForTheArts.org for more information on the Arts Education Network.
I grew up attending family orchestral concerts with my mother, two childhood friends and their parents, and my piano teacher who, contrary to the stereotype, I was very fond of. We would head over to the symphony hall every few months to experience the orchestra, and I was even encouraged to enjoy the experience more with the promise of a trip to a favorite restaurant afterwards. Experiencing entertainment aimed at children just my age, with people I loved, the opportunity should have all led to positive experiences with the orchestra. Yet, every family concert morning, I would wake up with dread of the boredom that I was about to endure. I grew up hating orchestral kid’s concerts!
Thinking back on how I would watch the seconds on my watch go around until the concert was over, I now spend a great deal of time considering what it was that so repelled me. Read the rest of this entry »
Five years ago, the Colburn School asked a fundamental question: How do we prepare conservatory students for careers in the 21st century? There were many suggestions put forward, but one idea kept rising to the top. Professional musicians entering the work field, the group agreed, must also be great teachers.
“Regardless of career path, musicians of the 21st century will always teach,” said Colburn Conservatory of Music Dean Richard Beene. “It is our responsibility to prepare students at the conservatory for a variety of careers in classical music, and teaching is a skill we hope all of our students acquire during their time at the Colburn School.” Read the rest of this entry »
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is a common refrain for describing the world’s most successful people and history’s most brilliant ideas and discoveries. Perseverance in the face of adversity can lead to major breakthroughs. Unfortunately in our hyperactive, high-stakes world of standardized testing, making time in the classroom for discovery, revision, and reflection without fear of judgment is now considered an unaffordable luxury. Read the rest of this entry »
Urban school districts, such as New York and Chicago, are taking bold steps to expand the school day curriculum and once again invest in arts education. After years of budget cuts, and a narrowing of curriculum at public schools across the country, cities are taking action.
Owing largely to mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, school districts of all sizes spent recent years focusing educational goals very narrowly on improving test scores in just two subject areas—English Language and Math. This focus came at the expense of the arts, music, and other subject areas that were not being tested.
Fortunately, the tide may be turning, and arts education may be making comeback. Read the rest of this entry »
I have launched my own version of a television show… for an audience of one. Henry, my first grandchild, has been my avid collaborator for over 2 years. Although we are separated by thousands of miles, we are “close” thanks to frequent video conferencing. Tours of my house and yard, co-reading books, playing with puppets, singing songs, playing instruments, counting oranges or abacus beads, and just chatting are part of our “together time.” The huge difference between my TV show and “prime time” TV is that mine is tailored to the interests and needs of Henry. He has an integral role in the choice of content as well as the pacing and types of interaction in which we engage. Read the rest of this entry »
Music is a central part of life for many of us, whether we listen, dance or play. It makes us feel good, or transports our imagination, but what is going on in our brain? Can music be used to help an ailing brain, or boost a learning one? An emerging field of Music Cognition is studying these important questions using new tools such as brain imaging that allow us to examine how the brain is changed by music. In this post we would like to tell you about one study we are doing that is trying to answer some of these questions. Read the rest of this entry »
They’re often left behind.
Left out of the discussion. Forgotten. Not on the stage or missing from the page. Frequently not even in the room.
I’m talking about students experiencing disability, or special education students.
In the swirling national dialogue on arts education and cognitive development, it is surprising to see how infrequently students experiencing disability are included as part of the research and discussion.
As K-12 schools everywhere are realizing that, if well implemented, inclusive classrooms can lead to better student outcomes, it is critical that the voices and talents of students experiencing disability are included. Read the rest of this entry »
The more I learn from the ongoing research on adolescent cognitive development, the more I realize the degree to which high school students are expected to make major decisions for which their brains are not quite ready. It’s no wonder that the college decision process, as well as the consideration of careers, is so overwhelming for many if not most 17- and 18-year-olds. I remember my son at that age: he couldn’t imagine going into any field other than music. Yet the plethora of choices and decisions without clear guidelines to facilitate the process proved to be highly confusing and enormously time-consuming for him. In fact, it became the inspiration for the creation of MajoringInMusic.com, in an effort to ease some of that angst for other students – and their parents.
According to the American College of Pediatricians, young people’s brains are, “under construction….The frontal lobe, the judgment center or CEO of the brain, allows the individual to contemplate and plan actions, to evaluate consequences of behaviors, to assess risk, and to think strategically. It is also the ‘inhibition center’ of the brain, discouraging the individual from acting impulsively. However, the frontal lobe does not fully mature until approximately 23 – 25 years of age.” The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry goes on to say that the significant differences in how adolescents’ brains deal with decision-making and problem-solving compared to adult brains can even be seen in “pictures of the brain in action.”
How, then, can we support college-bound arts students as they face decisions and choices they’re not developmentally ready to make? Read the rest of this entry »
When you take a look at the numbers, it’s clear that in coming years our public schools will enroll more English Language Learners than ever before. According to research by the Pew Charitable Trust, by 2050 34% of children under age 17 in the United States will be either immigrants or children of immigrants.
We also know that public school teachers are by and large white—over 80% as of the 2011-12 school year—leaving vast cultural and language gaps between teachers and their students. (Read more about that on page 20 of this report.)
So, what is the arts’ role in helping teachers reach English Language Learners? Making the arts a central part of any classroom can help deliver content in powerful new ways to excite more kids. Read the rest of this entry »
Confession #1: I had to Google “cognitive development” before I started writing this. I’m an arts administrator, after all, not an educator.
Confession #2: From my perspective, it seems clear that art makes kids smart. To the body of research demonstrating art education’s score-boosting, transferrable-skills, and college-readiness cognitive development superpowers, I say, “Yup.”
Confession #3. I live in Rapid City, South Dakota (not far from Mount Rushmore). Our community, which encompasses nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, has long, deep, painful struggles with racism. Read the rest of this entry »
I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, in a neighborhood with lots of people my age. When the weather was nice, the neighborhood kids and I would play outside, inventing new games, creating special spaces in trees, and learning how to negotiate our wants and needs with those of others.
Play is an important part of learning and thinking. It helps us make sense of the world, experiment, and negotiate within it. Play:
- promotes cognitive, linguistic, physical, and social development;
- sparks creativity, innovation, and imagination;
- aids in finding new possibilities and solutions, re-inventing and re-creating the world;
- helps foster empathy and develop new understandings and connections with others.
Juggling. We’re all juggling, aren’t we? Racing from work to activities to home to work, in a never-ending loop. But what if the balls we were trying to keep in the air carried more weight? What if dropping one of them meant something really bad might happen to us, something difficult, something damaging? What if we’re born juggling – “risk factors” is the term we’ve coined. What if these risk factors load us up, right from the get-go, with punishing amounts of instability? What if there’s a shortage of food in our home? Or heat? What if one or more of our parents have a disability, or a drinking problem, or issues with drugs? What if our parents are embroiled in a relationship that includes abuse, of mom, of dad, of… me?
The children I work with in the arts, on a daily basis, are at-risk for abuse and neglect. Ranging in age from 2-5, my little students are eager, enthusiastic dancers. But it hasn’t always been this way. Slowly, over time, they’ve come to accept dance in their therapeutic classroom environments. They’ve come to see the scarves and the music as outlets for creative expression, socialization, and fun. Dance helps them to relieve some stress, to smile, to be kids. Read the rest of this entry »
My first role was as a knight. I was eight. The audience consisted of my friend, Steven, also playing a knight, and the various woodland creatures that inhabited the backyard of our house in suburban Maryland. You see, I had recently been to the Maryland Renaissance Festival, and like many young boys and girls my age, had fallen in love with the costumes, the swords, the accents, and the meat on a stick. And so, back at the castle (my house), I was determined to recreate the excitement, the vivacity, and the magic of the experience … if only in my head. Read the rest of this entry »
When I talk with teachers around the country about arts education and cognition they all ask the same question, “What research can I show my principal to prove the benefit of arts education?” It is as if teachers seek a holy grail that will prove once and for all its significant value. Teachers want to verify art education’s impact to prevent its relegation to a merely fun or acculturating activity within schools. Their question is an important and, of course, complicated one. Read the rest of this entry »
What is thinking? Are there different modes of thought? How do we learn? Why do we respond so powerfully and intensely to the world’s beauty and to the beauty of things made by humans in response, to art in all its forms? What are the connections between our responses to paintings, music, dance, theater, poetry, and stories, our own impulses to make and create, and learning? Read the rest of this entry »