It’s Back to School time and with budgets tightening, the arts sometime get squeezed out. But I think downplaying art in school is a critical factor contributing to less effective education.  We retain approximately 10 percent of what we see; 30 to 40 percent of what we see and hear; and 90 percent of what we see, hear, and do.  Incorporating art in school and throughout life is key to growth.  Plus, it’s just more fun.

As I have taught visual art to kids, I’ve recognized at least six ways children benefit from art.

  1. Creativity – Trying new mediums and techniques, imagining different ways to portray a picture, mixing colors and exploring the results, connecting or juxtaposing unrelated objects, all lead students into discovery.
  2. Focus/attention – Thomas Merton said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Listening, thinking, and concentration are heightened in an art project.
  3. Cooperation – Working with other students on a project fosters contribution, acceptance and respect for another’s input.
  4. Problem solving and Decision making – Factoring and filtering different options and problem solving are almost always part of creating something new.
  5. Accomplishment/completion – The satisfaction of closure or finishing a project contributes to positive self-esteem.
  6. Self-confidence – An “individual’s trust in his or her own abilities, capacities, and judgments, or belief that he or she can successfully face day to day challenges and demands (Psychology Dictionary Online)” is integral in accepting feedback and criticism as a positive step to improvement.

Schools are beginning to realize the value of art integration in all subjects, and many are seeing stellar results from it.  Wiley H Bates Middle School in Annapolis, Maryland, “started implementing arts integration school wide in 2009… (and) has seen a 23 percent drop in the average number of referrals and suspensions per student. The school’s percentage of students proficient or advanced in math has grown four times more than the state’s over the same period, and five times more in reading.” (https://www.edutopia.org/stw-arts-integration-reform-overview).  When schools commit to integrating art, the statistics have proven the positive results.  But can they also help when a person has finished school?  Yes!

The benefit of art in adult life is staggering too.

  1.  Learning styles: We learn in different ways – by sight, hearing, or doing – and creating art is basic in all the learning styles.
  2. Cross cultural connection: Art is a universal language and communicates cross culturally, strengthening our similarities and sharing our values.
  3. Verbal and non-verbal articulation: It allows us to express emotions, relieve stress, problem solve, use imagination and experience fun.

The excuse that there isn’t enough time to be creative solidifies the decision to stop learning and growing.  Art continues to be a foundation in learning for both adults and children.  It’s the end of summer and with school starting, there is opportunity to recognize art’s value in life for all of us.