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.
Our brain is divided into two hemispheres. While we use both sides simultaneously, each side has specialized areas of expertise. These areas of expertise profoundly affect the way we learn. The left side of our brain is the logical, analytical side of us. The right side is our visual, big picture, creative side. Schools know how to teach the left side of us, but the arts are what develop the right side.
The left side of our brain is home to auditory-sequential thinking; these are our linear, sequential, detail-oriented students that do well in school. Auditory thinkers have strong language skills, learn through drill and repetition and are good test-takers. The right side of our brain is home to visual-spatial thinking; these are non-linear, holistic, conceptual thinkers that often struggle in school because information is not presented to them in ways their brains can process. These kids think in pictures and need material presented to them visually. They are often considered underachievers and grow increasingly discouraged because they struggle in the world of words, lecture, memorization and timed testing.
Art class is especially important to the right-brain students because well-structured, purposeful art programs actually give these children the skills they need to learn. Current curriculums focus on teaching kids to read, write and function in the world of words, yet right-brain, visual children need training in the world of images. Time spent in the art classroom helps them develop these skills.
Over 75% of the student population prefers using their visual skills to learn because images are faster, richer, multidimensional and more comprehensive. These are not just the art kids. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students are also visual learners. These students need visual training to develop their thinking abilities. Without this, the student’s skills will not fully develop. Art class is a critical must-have for students dependent upon their visual skills to learn.