Participation in art programs has a profound impact -on who children are and how effectively they learn. Along with social and emotional development and a much needed creative outlet, participation in the arts has been proven to increase academic performance. Art helps children develop essential learning skills and out of the box thinking; and when students learn about master artists, different cultures and ways to express ideas, they become more attuned to their own ideas. Art helps children think for themselves, consider multiple viewpoints and explore a wider range of possibilities, while providing a safe environment to explore and share their unique ideas.
And while all of those are reason enough to support art programs for kids, there are some unique and very significant reasons visual learners need art.
Art is right-brain thinking.
Art is all about the right side of the brain and visual learners live in the right side of their brains. Visual, spatial, relational, collaborative, creative thinking happens in the right side of everyone’s brain. It’s the type of thinking that is developed when kids participate in the arts. The arts are visual, collaborative and creative. They’re non-linear, holistic, non-sequential; the complete opposite of the way we teach in school, the way we test and the way language is processed. But when kids enter school we tell the right brain visual kids, they have to stop being like this. They have to stop thinking the way they do. Stop using the right side of their brain. Stop being who they are. They need to shut down. Turn off. Switch gears. They have to close down their natural operating system – the right side of their brain – and use their weaker side – their left side.
How would it feel to have to think and perform everyday in a role that is contrary to who you are and the way you think? Imagine yourself a computer programmer. You’ve had a successful career and things are going well. You’re comfortable doing what you do, thinking the way you think. Then you’re told, its time for a new job. Now you’re a public speaker. Overnight. Stop using your programming skills. Just turn them off. Don’t think like that any more. We don’t care about those. We never did. Get started on your speaking career. We’ll train you in speaking. There’ll be lots of tests and measurements – and you’ll be forever known, not as a programmer, but as a public speaker, good or bad.
It’s tough to stop being who you are. It’s tough for visual kids to stop using the right side of their brain. Once they’re in school they’ll be will taught, trained, tested and measured with left brain teaching methods, all day, everyday. And if they’re lucky they’ll get an art or music class 30 minutes a week. That’s it. That’s the only bit of fresh air they’ll get. It’s the only connection to who they are and how they think. It’s the only time they’ll get back to the right side of themselves. Everything else they do will be about the left.
So what about art?
Without art, our visual kids are dry, dull, frustrated, uninterested and struggling. Parents get bad reports. They hear their kids are misbehaving and distracted. The kids risk being labeled as difficult. Testing and medication for ADD or AHDH may be suggested and a whole negative cycle begins – all of it completely unfair to the child. Instead of understanding who they are and what they need, we tell them to buck up. Do better. Work harder. And yet we deny them the use of the side of the brain that would make it possible for them to do better. The truth of who they are is in the right side of their brain. Yes, they need to develop the left-brain capabilities – they need to read, write and take tests – but not at the expense of the right. We can accomplish so much more if we use art to teach those left-brain skills. If we let them think with the right side of their brain.
Kids need art. They need art in everything they do. They need to use the right side of their brain in everything they do. Yes – it will make them better in the academic classroom – but more importantly, it will honor who they are while helping them grow into the fullness of who they’re designed to be.