The Importance of Arts Education

So we completed two very important jobs over the past week…we finalized the results from our community climate survey, and we got all of our students to register for next year’s courses and classes. I love receiving this necessary feedback and data because it gives us an opportunity to see how well we’re faring as a Middle School from a parent perspective, and it allows us to see if the elective programs that we offer are still garnering the kind of interest, enthusiasm, and demand that we hope for. When analyzing the data from both of these tasks, one thing bubbled up and crystallized for us…that both our students and their parents love, celebrate, appreciate, and long for…THE ARTS! Now, this comes as no surprise to me, and if I’m being honest I was hoping that the data would come back like it did because I’m a huge, huge believer in, and proponent of the arts in education. I’d like to take some time today to speak about Dance, Drama, and Fine Art (and leave Music for a separate, upcoming post) because it is my belief that these  programs might just be the most important things that we offer to kids…and the biggest gifts that we can give our students throughout all of their years in education!

It’s funny that all this came to my attention so profoundly this week, because my own two Lower School children are currently more engaged and inspired than they’ve ever been in school. My son has been recently rehearsing for this week’s school dance production, where he’s part of the hip-hop crew, and he’s also doing a unit of study on the Gold Rush, where he gets to dramatically create a character and showcase his alter-ego to an audience in less than three weeks time. He’s super pumped to go to school, he’s voluntarily doing his homework for the first time ever (which consists of practicing his dance moves and making props for his gold-miner identity), he comes home eager to talk about his day, and he’s gaining confidence in ways that I’ve never seen before with regards to “school”. My daughter is also currently taking an after school hip-hop activity, and whenever she finds herself with some free time on her hands she’s either painting, drawing, sketching, or creating some form of art…and it’s like she is transformed into the best version of herself when she’s engaged in either of these endeavors. It’s not just them though, the data that came back clearly shows that this is the case with the majority of our MS students, and it all suggests that our kids are most happy, most engaged, most excited, and most inspired when taking part in these classes…and it makes me ridiculously happy to see.

I’ve known for a long time about the benefits of arts education, and the connection/correlation to how it enhances a student’s achievement and success in the “core” classes like Math and Language Arts, and I’ve enjoyed doing a fair amount of research on this topic over the past few years. The majority of research that I’ve done suggests that arts education enhances student learning in profound and immeasurable ways, and one particular article written by Valerie Strauss sums it up wonderfully. Strauss discusses the top 10 skills that children learn from the arts…skills that not only affect who they are as people, or aide in their academic and social development, but skills that affect how well they succeed in all aspects of their academic achievement (article is included in the links below)…

  1. Creativity
  2. Confidence
  3. Problem Solving
  4. Perseverance
  5. Focus
  6. Non-Verbal Communication
  7. Receiving Constructive Feedback
  8. Collaboration
  9. Dedication
  10. Accountability


It makes me crazy to read about how many districts and schools around the world are cutting these types of programs, or giving the jobs to teachers who are not specialists in the field, and simply not qualified to deliver the lessons with the same passion, expertise, or knowledge of an educator trained in the arts. One of the reasons that I love quality international schools is because we tend to understand the paramount importance of these programs, and we see the incredible benefit and learning that our students receive from these offerings. I’m so proud to be working in a school that places such an emphasis on the arts, and I know that our entire community is so much the better for it. Without specific programs like Fine Art, Dance, and Drama, our students would be missing out on what education is really all about in my opinion, and they would be getting short changed to the point of neglect…in short, it would simply be educationally irresponsible. Anyway, make sure to say thank you to our arts teachers this week for all that they bring to our students’ lives, and take some time to really think about how important and necessary their role is…wow! For those of you celebrating Easter today, I sure hope that the Easter Bunny found you, and I hope that you’re all full of chocolate eggs! Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week……..
The arts are an essential element of education, just like reading, writing, and arithmetic…music, dance, painting, and theater are all keys that unlock profound human understanding and accomplishment.
– William Bennett

TED Talk – Dance Evolution –
http://www.ted.com/talks/the_lxd_in_the_internet_age_dance_evolves.html
Amazing Art and Dace Videos –
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJfDrk4IQrg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOMgDbcA84A
Great Articles discussing the benefits of the Arts in Education –
http://www.edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development
http://www.katyisd.org/dept/finearts/Pages/The-Importance-of-Fine-Arts-Education-.aspx
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/22/top-10-skills-children-learn-from-the-arts/
http://www.arteducators.org/advocacy/why-art-education
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/dance-education
http://www.phecanada.ca/programs/dance
http://www.danceadvantage.net/why-dance-matters-survival-of-the-fittest/
http://www.childdrama.com/why.html
http://www.education.com/magazine/article/Why_Childrens_Theater_Matters/

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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One Response to The Importance of Arts Education

  1. Nichelle says:

    Thanks for the mention and for writing about the importance of arts education!

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