This week has been designated by Congressional resolution as Arts In Education Week. For these seven days we will celebrate the powerful influences of dance, music, theatre, and visual art in the lives of students, as well as their larger communities.
The good news is, there is a lot to celebrate.
Across the state, and nation, schools are discovering an effective, strong education is to be found in schools that have ‘regular’ classrooms infused with arts-related activities. Example after example, study after study, is revealing how powerful the arts are as an educational tool.
In just one, the August, 2016 edition of the Christian Science Monitor published a cover story about a Connecticut school entitled “The School that Art Saved.” The article details the strides that one elementary school has taken after moving to an arts-integrated learning model.
Within the Kansas City metropolitan area alone, schools in Liberty, Hickman Mills, Belton, Shawnee Mission, and both Kansas Cities (you have to know the importance of a street called State Line Road) are trying out new techniques in incorporating arts learning throughout the school day.
Even leaders in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) have discovered that by adding the arts they can move students full STEAM ahead. The Digital Media Lab in the Lee’s Summit District has proved that by blending instruction in computer technology with graphics, music, and video, we can graduate students career-ready in that field. They fit right in at the aptly named Missouri Innovation Campus here. Across the state, other forward thinking educators are using the same techniques to produce impressive results with their students.
However, there is still a vital place for the traditional arts classroom where students focus on developing their artistic abilities. If nothing else, study in the arts completes the ‘well-rounded’ education so necessary to create good human beings to live in our society. Artistic pursuits allow students to practice creativity, innovation, and perhaps, most important, perseverance in completing a task, and completing it well.
While in other parts of the school a student may accept that 80% completion is mastery of a subject, it is in the arts that a student learns that only complete and total excellence is acceptable. Can you imagine a high school band which only hits 80% of their notes correctly or a play where the light board operator feels good about herself if 16 of 20 lighting cues happened on time? How about a painting where 80% was completed, but one-fifth was left almost blank? Nor can the student in the arts. They strive for perfection in those classes. Is it any wonder then that research reveals that students in the arts tend to perform better in their ‘regular’ classes as well?
So, join with students, parents and teachers around the nation in celebrating Arts in Education this week. Encounter a student or their parents and listen to the exceptional insights they can give you about the impact of the Arts on their lives.
If you happen to encounter one of those dedicated educators who is reaching his students through the arts, say thank you. And if you also encounter an educational leader in your community, please remind her that you expect your schools to educate the whole child. All of us in arts education thank you for your ongoing support.
Ben Martin is a Lee's Summit resident, playwright, theater director and former teacher in the Lee's Summit R-7 School District. His periodically recurring columns offer uncertain observations and sometimes unpopular opinions from his life, travels and activities in the Lee's Summit Community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.