Recently, I was invited to be part of a teacher in-service at a local Montessori pre-school. We met in the evening, after the children had gone home. As I entered the classroom, I saw shelves lined with familiar Montessori activities—all colorful, well-organized and designed to entice young learners. There is a special place in my heart for Montessori pre-schools, because their teaching method includes techniques and tools that work well for a multitude of learning styles, especially our visual and kinesthetic learners. Their engaging activities get the children interested but are also designed to help children develop discrimination, sequencing and organization skills that are critical to successful learning.
While at Northrop Grumman speaking about the nuances of left and right-brain thinking, I saw a friend of mine who is a software engineer. After the presentation, he identified himself as a right-brain, visual-spatial thinker. This friend is also a musician — an excellent guitar player — so I asked how he thought that impacted his abilities as an engineer? He felt his participation in music had helped him develop the patterning, sequencing and innovative abilities that enabled him be so creative.
What Students are Really Missing when Tight Budgets Cut the Arts
It’s no secret that arts programs for children are the go first when budget cuts take place in our school systems. Schools must achieve Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act – and the arts are not a priority, or even included in the assessment standards of most states. But we must pose the question, what are students REALLY missing when we drop the arts from our curriculums?
Art has always been a facet of who I am. From the first moment I picked up a pencil and scribbled something other than my name, art became a part of me. Art has helped me develop my creativity. Art has helped me build my confidence. Art has shown me an endless canvas of unlimited possibilities.
When I was a child, art allowed me to express my thoughts that were too complex to convey through words. It brought focus and simplified concepts I had conceived. Art took those thoughts and brought them to life in a visible and tangible form. For being a child, art provided this powerful tool which aided in my communication.
Too often the visual arts are considered a place for unstructured activity and exploration, freedom from discipline or constraint. There is a notion that any structure or expectation in the visual arts will stifle creativity. And yet we would not hold the same standard for any other form of the arts.