The work of arts educators at schools and institutions that offer an arts-integrated curriculum is to teach the whole child.
That means that despite the United States’ focus on science, technology, engineering, and math subjects (STEM), they believe that arts and academics should have equal weight.
Their key focus isn’t on just creating a successful student. They want to foster a successful human being who is equipped with the skills needed to face adult life. As such, they teach such subjects THROUGH art.
The High Stakes of So Much Testing
Aside from the emphasis placed on STEM topics, students in the United States are increasingly subjected to rigorous testing so that schools can continue to receive funding.
But it’s not helping many students.
When learning is comprised of always finding the right answer to score high on a test, it teaches the student that there’s only one right answer. This discourages students from thinking because any other answer simply doesn’t count. And that’s not how the world works.
It’s understandable that teachers in other disciplines need, to some extent, to quantify their teachings. Math and science, for instance, do work from a degree of absolutes. But arts educators (or any educator working in the humanities really) are unique because their goals are far less defined.
So what is the goal of arts educators?
1. Improve Cognition
Students who thrive in the arts are often misunderstood in conventional or public schools. They see the world in a different way. This is what makes arts educators so valuable.
A study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience found a connection between learning music and improved “verbal memory, second language pronunciation accuracy, reading ability, and executive functions” in students. This extends across other artistic ventures as well.
This shouldn’t come as any great surprise though. For a student to play music, they must be able to grasp the science of sound waves and acoustics. Or when a student is performing Shakespeare, he or she also learns the historical, cultural, and social events during that era. There are even clear correlations between geometry and drawing.
That’s the thinking behind arts-integrated education. Immersing students in multifaceted artistic endeavors naturally exposes them to math, history, science, language, etc. in a way that helps them understand and THINK about these subjects.
2. Encourage Growth
Attending an arts-integrated middle school or high school doesn’t consist of students sitting around and sculpting, playing guitar, or painting all day and getting credit for it.
Arts educators want to see their students grow and progress. As such, they know how to set clear goals for and expectations of their students so they can learn the connection between doing the work and garnering results. This enables the students to develop helpful life skills such as resilience and grit in order to master their craft.
Yet, they’re also careful to maintain a balance between the extrinsic motivation they provide with the student’s intrinsic motivation. In other words, if the student begins to feel that the artistic endeavor is becoming a chore, they lose the important element of self-satisfaction. Arts educators ensure this doesn’t happen.
3. Boost Self-Confidence
It is through the arts that many a creative person finds his or her “voice.” Arts educators are no strangers to this idea – as this was often the case for them.
There are occasions when a student who is new to an arts-integrated school may feel quite drawn to a discipline, but also intimidated. Especially if he or she has been discouraged from it for so long.
Arts educators are trained to recognize this reticence and gently encourage these students without overwhelming them. It’s not at all usual for such students to eventually come out from under their insecurities and start to transform into the person they’re meant to be.
Such a metamorphosis infuses self-confidence in not just that single discipline, but throughout all other aspects of their lives.
4. Prepare Students for the New World
Here’s the deal.
Despite antiquated notions of the misunderstood and “starving artist,” right now is an amazing time to be a creative person. The internet and other tech have made it far easier for creative folks to find success. So the idea that receiving an arts education is setting students up for a nomadic work life of low-paying jobs is fallacious.
There are so many opportunities now for those who are creative, innovative, and not afraid to take chances in this new world that pivots on technology. And so yes, arts educators know that STEM topics are important. But so too is creativity and innovation. And this is the domain of the artist. Bringing the two together is crucial – which is where arts educators shine.
5. Facilitate Communication
It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of communication in the world. It’s the cornerstone of every successful relationship – both personal and professional. So it’s a necessary skill.
Fortunately, students learn a myriad of communication skills in the study of art. For example, to be part of a play or other production, students must learn how to verbally communicate with the audience, as well as the underlying emotions of the story. By the same token, members in a music ensemble have to learn to communicate on a verbal, physical, and emotional level with one another, the conductor, and members of the audience.
That’s one of the most beautiful things about art. It’s the end result of transforming thoughts and emotions into a unique expression. It IS communication. And arts educators share this with their students.
Celebrate the Work of Arts Educators
The valuable work of arts educators includes teaching students that there are many answers to a problem, that making mistakes is essential, and encouraging creativity and innovation at every turn.
No matter the subject.
So if you think your child would thrive with an arts-integrated curriculum, contact us today to take a tour of our school. And let their creativity lead them to success.