Art has long been perceived as a fun activity, with little academic impact or value in an educational system focused on literacy and test scores. Because of this misconception, art programs across the country are being eliminated in staggering numbers. While the cuts may help the bottom line, our students are paying the price. Research has proven time and time again, that art is essential to academic success, and many of our children can’t learn without it.
Over the Holidays, the Elgin Community Network organized a Community Thanksgiving Dinner. They collected turkey and dessert donations, recruited volunteers and expected to feed close to twelve hundred people a free Thanksgiving dinner. Our family volunteered for the morning shift, excited for the opportunity to give of ourselves.
Art teachers are excited to welcome students back into the classroom. While we enjoy the work our children create in art class, participation in the arts is far more impactful than is often understood. As explained in my new book Being-Visual, the arts are essential for all children because it influences their ability to learn in every subject.
When I first set out to write Being Visual, I thought I was writing about my experience seeing the way art can be used to enhance learning. But while writing and researching, I had a very profound shift in my own understanding. I, like many others, thought learning was learning and art was there as a benefit—an enrichment. As an artist myself, I had always enjoyed participating in art class alongside my other studies. But, I now realize I had grossly underestimated the power and value of art as it relates to education.
Cooking with our kids is a great way to spend time together while involved in purposeful activity. But there’s much more that happens when we invite our kids into the kitchen. Cooking is an engaging, visual, spatial, tactile, hands-on activity that can reinforce classroom learning while developing fundamental cognitive skills.
After a late night reading stacks and stacks of books during our “sleepover,” my grandson and I were up early and in the kitchen to start our day, making and doing. Brayden, who is four years old, climbed on his special kitchen stool, while I got out the ingredients. Making breakfast quiche was going to be a great opportunity to measure, pour, mix and roll, all things that would thoroughly engage a curious preschooler. This multisensory activity is one that I often engaged my own children in as they grew, knowing the benefits go far beyond just having fun.
Participating in theater is about so much more than playing dress-up. There are significant cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits to participating in live theater. Many of these benefits are just what our visual-spatial kids need, but are also a safe, fun way for our more auditory-sequential kids to develop their “other” side.
This weekend was the 25th anniversary of our local children’s theater group. The Children’s Theatre of Elgin was founded by two brothers, both of whom are attorneys, and is dedicated to “live theater for children, by children”. Parent volunteers provide most of the labor, while grants allow them to use of state of the art theater facilities. The group puts on four shows a year with student performers ranging from ages seven to twenty one, depending on the show. What a great, creative outlet for your visual learner this summer!
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.