How the arts help prepare our children for their future

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Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s July 2017 issue. Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here

article by Rebecca Stewart

As our kids make their way through their educational journeys, they learn the ways of math and science, vocabulary and reading, history and social studies, music and art… In countless ways each of these subjects plays off another, creating a foundation from which to build upon. But it’s the unique gifts that those last two have the potential to offer our youth, as well as how they can tap into these opportunities in school – and out – that we’ll be exploring.

Arts education refers to education in the disciplines of music, dance, theatre, and visual arts. Study in the arts is integral to our society…The arts are what make us most human, most complete as people. The arts cannot be learned through occasional or random exposure any more than math or science can.www.katyisd.org/dept/finearts

In elementary school our kids are exposed to music class that is often equal parts singing and experiencing different types of instruments. Weekly, they experience hands-on art through a variety of mediums, creating various works of art. In middle school their options grow to more traditional band/choir/orchestra options and art classes – including the culinary arts. Indeed, they might even have the opportunity to partake in theatre classes. Upon arriving in high school, their options are varied and great. They will have the opportunity to discover their creative niche, both in regular classes and via extracurricular activities.

to name a few…

Choir · Band · Orchestra · Musical · Speech, Drama, & Debate · Journalism · Sculpture · Art · Community Theater · Culinary Arts · Art Club · Pep Band · Creative Writing · Dance ·

Whether our kids are taking the classes out of a genuine love of the arts, or to fill a requirement, there are definite benefits in addition to “Music for the sake of music,” says Tim Lautzenheiser, teacher, clinician, author, composer, consultant, and adjudicator.

It is believed music learning activates various areas of the brain and synchronizes the mind for learning at a fast pace while stretching the memory to a higher level of retention. Music enhances cognitive learning and facilitates growth in many areas of human development, i.e., motivation, social skills, time management, situational awareness, aesthetic appreciation, etc. As we learn more about the integration of emotional intelligence and cognitive learning patterns, it is ever apparent the study of music has a direct relationship to the measured success of the individual/student via reasoning, creative thinking, decision-making, and problem solving. – Tim Lautzenheiser, Why Band? Why Music? (www.musicforall.org/who-we-are/advocacy/why-music-why-band)

Beyond the Academics: Benefits of Arts Education

  • Improved self-confidence – Mastering a particularly difficult piece of music, fine-tuning the performance/argument over the course of a Speech, Drama, & Debate season, successfully memorizing and delivering lines in the musical, seeing the beautiful evidence of growth and development in your artistry, finally nailing that piece of choreography…Accomplishments that will bolster your self-confidence far beyond the stage.
  • Public speaking (as Laurel Speech & Drama head coach, Liz Schwartz, said in a January 2017 interview, “You will need to speak publicly in your life, at one time or another, guaranteed. Why not be good at it?”)
  • Learn to receive and accept critiques and criticisms (Hello future employee evaluations!)
  • Time management skills – From attending rehearsals (and showing up on time and prepared) to balancing it all with schoolwork, sports practices, and family and friends time.
  • Discipline and commitment – Practice makes perfect, the saying goes, and it takes time and dedication to master the latest challenge.
  • Teamwork – It’s not just on the court or field where our children can learn the ways of teamwork. It is an essential skill in all areas of our lives.
  • Arts education aids students in skills needed in the workplace: flexibility, the ability to solve problems and communicate, the ability to learn new skills, to be creative and innovative, and to strive for excellence. -Joseph M. Calahan, Director Of Cooperate Communications, Xerox Corporation

Even if your kid is more of a behind-the-scenes, for-the-love-no-spotlight-here type of person, there are still opportunities to be explored in the land of arts education. They could…

  • Be a part of the ensemble at large.
  • Go literally behind-the-scenes and be part of the backstage crews – building sets, controlling lights, managing costumes…
  • Unleash their creativity with hands-on arts classes/clubs.

From STEM to STEAM: Blending arts with academics

“The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin… or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity.” – Mae Jemison; doctor, dancer, and first African American woman in space

Odds are you’ve seen those acronyms bandied about, perhaps more STEM than STEAM, however, a shift towards readily including that ‘A’ for Arts (and Design) is well in the making. (In fact, you’ve maybe noticed a shift locally, from STEM to STEAM, in some of the programming Billings Public Library offers for children, tweens, and teens). On the broad spectrum, though, in June 2011, House Resolution 319 was introduced and:

  • Recognizes the importance of art and design in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
  • Encourages the inclusion of art and design in the STEM fields during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
  • Encourages institutions of higher education to incorporate the role of art and design into their STEM curricula.

www.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/house-resolution/319

There are so many incredible facets to be explored in the world of arts education, let’s encourage our children to discover both the intrinsic and undeniable bonus benefits. Let us embrace the truth that inclusion of arts education doesn’t come at the expense of the core classes, if anything, they aid them. Keep calm and dance/sing/play/create on!

Outside of school artistic outlets:

Community Theater

Artistic Endeavors

  • The Yellowstone Art Museum offers a variety of classes for kids, teens, and adults. (Including opportunities for families to create art together with FAM at the YAM.
  • Billings Public Library offers a variety of programming for kids and teens that include writing workshops, creating, and STEAM activities.
  • There are studios in and around Billings that offer creative outlets for all ages and artistic abilities. (Think: Candi’s Art & Party, Yellowstone Coffee & Canvas, Crooked Line Studio, The Front Porch, Better to Gather)

Musical Magic

  • At Karen Haughey Music, music lessons are available for the littlest of littles to the oldest of grown ups.
  • Looking for a private, professional music instructor, check out Eckroth Music’s database of music teachers at: eckroth.com/t-billingsteachers.aspx
  • Billings Youth Orchestra & Chorale hold auditions annually for a variety of musical levels. http://billingsyouthorchestra.com

Just Dance

  • Studios throughout town offer instruction in whatever genre draws your dancer in: Irish Dance, Ballet, Tap, Hip-Hop, and Contemporary just to name a few.
  • Adults can move and groove with: Nia, Zumba, Beat, Ballroom, Country Western, and Latin for starters.

*Interested in turning your love of art/the arts into a career, check out www.theartcareerproject.com.