2017-03-19 / Viewpoints

Chalk Talk

By Edward S. Graham, PhD
Superintendent Montrose Schools

This past week, the Montrose Schools were pleased to host the Young Americans, an international traveling choral group that promotes goodwill and support for the fine arts. Most importantly, the Young Americans blended 150 Montrose students into their production to create a performance that was a delight to experience and transformative for the young people who participated. While the music was great - the opportunity to watch students create, showcase talents, work together, and exhibit confidence beyond their years was even better. But then again, that’s what the arts do for students and why they continue to deserve a prominent place in education.

International competition and economics have rightfully shined a light on the importance of math and science education. As important as the core academics are, fine arts also deserve their place in the development of children - not only for their intrinsic value, but also for the added-value they offer to academics and life itself. In her book “The Artistic Edge: 7 Skills Children Need to Succeed in an Increasingly Right Brain World,” Lisa Phillips (2012; Washington Post - January 2013) suggests the following ten skills children learn through arts education:

Creativity. The ability to think on one’s feet and approach tasks from different perspectives is a distinguishing characteristic. Whether it’s reciting a monologue in different ways, creating a painting that represents a memory, or composing a new rhythm, arts help children practice creative thinking now and for the future.

Confidence. Skills developed through theater not only train you how to convincingly deliver a message, but also build the confidence needed to take command of the stage. By stepping out of their comfort zone, making mistakes, and learning from them in rehearsal, children develop the confidence to perform in front of large audiences.

Problem Solving. Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn this clay into a sculpture? How will my character react in this situation? This problem-solving practice develops reasoning skills and understanding - all necessary for success in any career.

Perseverance. When a child picks up an instrument for the first time, they know that playing a concerto right away is not an option; however, through practice, children learn the skills, techniques, and persistence that make it a possibility in the future. In a competitive world that demands the continuing development of new skills, perseverance is essential to success.

Focus. Performing in an ensemble requires musicians to not only focus on their role, but also how their role contributes to the overall product. Such art experiences improve children’s abilities to concentrate and focus in other aspects of their lives as well.

Non-Verbal Communication. Through theater and dance education, children learn to breakdown the mechanics of body language, experience different ways of moving, and how those movements communicate different emotions.

Receiving Constructive Feedback. Receiving constructive feedback about a performance or visual art piece is a regular part of any arts instruction. Children learn that feedback is part of learning and it is not something to be offended by or taken personally.

Collaboration. Through the arts, children practice working together, sharing responsibility, and compromising with others to accomplish a common goal. When a child has a part to play in a music ensemble, or a theater or dance production, they begin to understand that their contribution is necessary for the success of the group, even if they don’t have the biggest role.

Dedication. When kids practice in order to achieve a finished product or performance, they learn to associate dedication with a feeling of accomplishment. They develop healthy work habits such as being on time for rehearsals and performances, respecting the contributions of others, and putting effort into the success of the final piece.

Accountability. When children practice creating something collaboratively, they learn that their actions affect other people. They learn that when they are not prepared or on time, other people suffer. Children also learn that it is important to take responsibility for mistakes - acknowledge them, learn from them, and move on.

Art education offers far more than its relevance to those with aspirations for the stage or concert hall. Art develops key mindsets and skills essential to success throughout life and in the workplace. Thanks for your support fine art education programs and encouragement to our young people who embrace the experiences provided.

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