There is a concerning reality impacting the creative development of our young people. According to a 2014 report by U.S. News and World Report, more than 80 percent of U.S. school districts have had to cut funds since 2008. The same report states that the first programs to be eliminated as a result of funding deficits are often art and music. While some may argue that the creative arts are not as necessary for the holistic educational development of young people as a foundational understanding of math, science, English, and history, the importance of the arts in education, and the benefits they provide to student development, cannot be overlooked.
Five Proven Benefits of Incorporating The Arts in the Classroom
- Art Practicum Enables Essential Adolescent Development. Research finds that art education exposes students to activities that enable valuable physical and mental development.1 For young students, exposure to art education encourages fine motor skills, neural development, and problem-solving abilities. Such competencies allow for greater success in more traditional subjects, such as reading, writing, science, and math.
- Data Shows that High Arts Involvement Results in Higher Scores on Achievement Tests. Those who may believe that the arts only provide students with creative skills overlook the impact that art has on overall academic achievement. A study conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles utilizing a federal database of over 25,000 middle and high school students identified that students with high arts involvement performed better on standardized achievement tests than students with low arts involvement. Further, the study found that the more art classes a student takes, the higher the scores. Also, several independent studies have shown that high school students who take art classes produce higher math and verbal SAT scores than students who take no arts classes.2
- The Arts Enable Critical Connections to Underrepresented Students. According to a report titled, Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning, the arts help to reach students in unique ways. As a result, the study identified better student attendance and lower dropout rates among those students exposed to the arts in education.
- Exposure to the Arts Provides More Well-Rounded Students. Studies on the benefits of art education have further identified that high arts-involved students watched fewer hours of television, participated in more community service activities, and reported less boredom in school.3 Seemingly, exposure to the arts broadens student interests and can reinforce the importance of cultural and societal awareness, resulting in greater community interest and participation. In one recent study by The Brookings Institution, students who received more arts education were found to be more compassionate, in that they “are more interested in how other people feel and more likely to want to help people who are treated badly.”4
- Art Helps Students Understand The World Around Them and Their Place in It. Art therapists who encourage young people to use artistic methods and mediums as a way of expressing their emotions explain that art allows children to process their world and deal with difficult, sometimes negative emotions safely.5 Experts say art also provides critical sensory input for young people working through unfamiliar or challenging feelings. While not all students need art therapy, every young person can benefit from exposure to a practice that allows for personal expression and emotional development.
Beyond simple creative expression and the encouragement of young people with a natural predisposition to creativity to refine skills that could translate to future career opportunities, the arts in education have proven to help young people develop the holistic mental, physical, and emotional skills needed to become active participants in a complex world. The arts also have been proven to help students remain engaged in the classroom and reach higher academic achievements. No matter your subject matter, by incorporating creative projects into your classroom instruction, you create opportunities to engage students in an impactful way and help them develop critical skills for holistic development.
1. Early music lessons boost brain development. (2013, February 12). Retrieved March 19, 2019, from https://www.mcgill.ca/channels-contribute/channels/news/early-music-lessons-boost-brain-development-224936↩
2. Americans for the Arts. (2015). Arts Facts: SAT Scores and the Arts 1999 – 2015 (Art Facts, p. 1, Rep.). Washington DC. doi:https://www.americansforthearts.org/by-program/reports-and-data/legislation-policy/naappd/arts-facts-sat-scores-and-the-arts-1999-2015 Accessed 19 March 2019.↩
3. Bush, C. (n.d.). Why the Arts. Retrieved March 19, 2019, from https://artsforlifeaward.org/why-the-arts/
4. Kisida, B., Bowen, D. H., Kisida, B., & Bowen, D. H. (2019, February 12). New evidence of the benefits of arts education. Retrieved March 19, 2019, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2019/02/12/new-evidence-of-the-benefits-of-arts-education/↩
5. RtoR.org. (2019, March 12). Creativity and Recovery: The Mental Health Benefits of Art Therapy. Retrieved March 19, 2019, from https://www.rtor.org/2018/07/10/benefits-of-art-therapy/