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The Arts in a Child’s Life

Children start life with the potential to absorb information and learn skills of many different kinds: they can learn how to dance, talk, think, build things, play music, act (pretend) and much more.

In school, however, the emphasis is on ‘academics’, the three ‘R’s”. But we forget that children are multi-faceted in their ability and desire to learn.

Even though schools will not admit this, learning does not even have to involve language. A child might tell you an endless story about what happened to them that day, but others would rather move and show you with gestures. Yet another child will draw a picture and still others will build something with a lego set to express their experience.

Unfortunately, by the time a child enters school a lot of that rich caleidoscope is parked in the basement. Only language (writing and reading) and counting matters. I wonder how many children are left behind because they just happen to be weak in ‘verbal intelligence’?

But what is the value of a factual thought without meaning? Just an interesting oddity if you ask me. Yes, I am smart: I know that 2 green apples and 2 red apples make 4 apples. But what makes it interesting is whether red apples taste better than green apples. Trying to stack 2 red and 2 green apples. Drawing 2 green apples and 2 red apples. Carving a green apple…

Once you start applying imagination and creativity, your factual thinking about apples becomes transformational. Thinking about how to juggle apples, how they taste, how they look.. that is what the ARTS are all about.

And the ARTS are not truly concerned about the mind. They tap into our emotions and our senses. Our taste, smell, vision and hearing.

Education that thinks that the ‘senses and emotions’ are not important in the learning process is doomed to fail. Not only are the ARTS an extension of our senses, but they are like flashlights that illuminate other academic subjects. It gives meaning to knowledge.

Aside from the fact that many children have intelligences that do not get addressed in a society that does not value the arts in their educational system, the children who do excel in those types of intelligences, i.e. verbal/mathematical, miss out on developing their kinesthetic, visual, musical and spatial intelligences.

A trapeze artist at the Cirque du Soleil who dazzles us with their triple somersaults on a tight rope, who balances on one hand on 20 stacked chairs: are they not ‘intelligent’? Does their ability to use their ‘kinesthetic intelligence’ not border on genius? Martha Graham once sait: if I could say it I wouldn’t have to dance it.

The problem might lie in the use of the word ‘art’. It usually means an art ‘product’: a painting, a sculpture, a sonata. Yet ‘the arts’ are more than anything else a product of creative thinking, it involves problem solving and critical judgment. The process of creating a work of art is where the true value lies.

Some of the information contained in this article is based on reading the following article: Boston Public Schools As Arts-Integrated Learning Organizations • An Address to the Council of Elementary Principals Meeting Boston, MA Public Schools • May 18, 1995 • byEric Oddleifson, Chairman CABC