Ask art teachers about the superstars in their classrooms; they will report that their students are the smartest kids on campus. Research supports these claims. Student involvement in the arts— whether theatre, dance, music, or visual—develops skills linked to improved performance in other disciplines. These include:
- Reading acquisition
- Phonological awareness
- Sequence learning
- Long-term and working memory
- Spatial relationship
- Student motivation
However, the need to quantify the value of art education in relation to alternate academic disciplines is flawed and predicated on recent trends cutting the arts in favor of targeted teaching to standardized tests.
Art programs are major components of independent, liberal arts schools. Administrators and teachers in the schools believe that the arts are necessary and vital to creating well-rounded citizens and flexible thinkers by:
- Coaching students to make good judgments based on qualitative relationships
- Fostering creativity and an openness to new ideas
- Bolstering critical thinking skills
- Encouraging individual observation, description, analysis, and interpretation
- Teaching empathy
- Engaging in hands-on, collaborative learning
- Promoting dedication and discipline
- Revealing the innate nature of humans to create and to engage in
- Teaching that mistakes are opportunities for growth.
In today’s rapidly evolving, global economy, businesses are demanding a workforce able to flexibly and creatively solve complex problems. As Annette Byrd of GlaxoSmithKline reports,
"We need people who think with the creative side of their brains—people who have played in a band, who have painted...it enhances symbiotic thinking capabilities, not always thinking in the same paradigm, learning how to kick-start a new idea, or how to get a job done better, less expensively.
Graduates of college-preparatory schools that value an art-infused curriculum are equipped to meet the challenges of today’s economy.The art program at Sanford School demonstrates that our commitment to excellence extends beyond core academics. One-hundred percent of our students in PreK to 8th grade participate in visual art and music. Our Upper School curriculum and extracurricular programs provide opportunities for deeper exploration of theater, choral and instrumental music, and a variety of visual arts, from sculpture to film production. All of these options, thoughtfully integrated into Sanford's rigorous curriculum, serve to enrich the experiences our students have today while preparing them to successfully and creatively meet the demands of tomorrow.
Lynn Casto is a former art educator and Head of Upper School at Sanford School in Hockessin, Delaware.