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 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 »
Do you still sing the alphabet when you need to recall the order of letters? Do you chant the poem “Thirty Days Hath September…” when trying to remember how many days there are in a month? Now think about your time in school. My guess is that, like me, you remember school plays, a catchy song when you studied a foreign language, or the content of a science or history lesson when you made a poster or diorama. Yet, how many of us remember the content of the tests or quizzes we took in school? Read the rest of this entry »
More and more, we at Americans for the Arts are talking about the transformative power of the arts, echoing the work that has happened at a local level in the arts across America for the past several decades. However, as I move more and more into the education space, I hear a call for the hard facts amongst the heart-warming stories. Education decision makers want to see results, they want to see change, and they want to draw a correlation between the two.
As a professional arts education advocate, I can keep up with most of these requests, but recently I found myself at a bit of a cross roads. I was in Los Angeles, speaking with a self-described ‘music education evangelist,’ who was telling me all about some research that had been conducted on the impact of arts education on the cognitive functions of the brain. Arts Education, he said, could work to close the opportunity gap faster than other – more conventional – tactics. Read the rest of this entry »
Editor’s Note: Lucy Wang is the 2015 recipient of the NABE Scholarship, presented annually by Americans for the Arts and the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) Foundation to a student of both economics and the arts.
Even though economics and art are two very distinct fields, I feel that they are best understood in combination with one another. Art inspires me but can’t reveal the quantitative foundations of modern life. Economics allows me to understand the underlying influences of the world, but I synthesize and process the things I learn through art. Read the rest of this entry »
Those of you who read my periodic blogs know that I have a real passion for Tulsa. As I’ve described the Brady Arts District where the Hardesty Arts Center, Guthrie Green, Philbrook Downtown, and Woody Guthrie Center reside along with a growing number of arts-related venues, restaurants, and boutiques, I’ve received comments from a number of readers that they had no idea Tulsa had so much going on in the arts.
Today, I’m sharing with you a tremendous opportunity for early and mid-career artists – the Tulsa Artist Fellowship. This new fellowship will cultivate Tulsa’s art scene by both supporting local artists and attracting national artists. The Tulsa Artist Fellowship provides an unrestricted stipend of between $15,000 and $40,000, free housing, and workspace. Artists will live and work in Tulsa’s Brady Arts District, participating in the local arts community. Fellowships are merit-based with a one-year term with the option to renew for a second year. In this inaugural class of fellows, the fellowship will focus on Public and/or Gallery-Oriented Visual Arts. Read the rest of this entry »