The extra financial pressures that the misnamed "No Child Left Behind" act put upon schools resulted in many schools cutting
whatever funding they already had for teaching the arts. With the increased focus on drilling students in the "three Rs: reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic," children who might one year have gone on a field trip to, for example, a children's theatrical production, now find themselves practicing test taking during this time.
Schools with more children who struggle with academics have been the most likely to cut other programs in order to take the time to drill these students. The fear is that if these kids do not succeed, more government funding will be taken away. It's very ironic, because students who struggle in one discipline may do well in another. The self-esteem gained from doing well in one area can give the child the strength to keep trying in an area he or she finds difficult.
Children who are offered a well-rounded education receive incredible benefits from the arts being included in their education.
Variety of Disciplines
Any academic discipline has its own individual merits. We don't teach kids mathematics so that they will read better, and vice versa. A well-rounded education does result in children being able to make a myriad of connections and become multi-faceted adults with more interests and skills than children who were exposed to a limited number of subjects of study. Each discipline should be taught because each discipline offers the development of valuable skills and adds to the child's world view.
Listening to music evokes emotions, and playing music can be just like communicating emotions. Some people find this a very powerful experience. Music enriches the lives of students and should be considered a necessary part of education.
Scientific studies of the brain have mapped more extensive neural connections in musicians than non-musicians. Scientists have also observed that studying music often results in enhanced mathematical ability. Some studies have shown a relationship between music and memory (known as the Mozart Effect), but they are less conclusive.
There are many skills an elementary school child can learn from art classes. A child learns to pay attention and observe when she draws an object that she is looking at. She learns to plan ahead and follow through when she sketches a series of preparatory pictures before creating a complete painting.
A child in art class learns to problem solve. If he can't get the clay to do what he wants, does he need more water? Or should the clay be drier (and if so, how to get it that way?)
Humans have expressed themselves and created artwork since the dawn of civilization. An appreciation for art and exposure to art history gives any student a means for understanding other societies and cultures as well as our own.
Children benefit greatly from participating, even in small ways, in drama. They gain poise, self-confidence, and the ability to speak in front of others. They learn patience while they are waiting for their cue. They learn to be supportive when they have a small role, and they learn that they can't do it all alone when they have a bigger role. They learn to work as a team, take turns, and cooperate.
Theater happens to be my personal favorite because in drama we pull together a wide variety of skills from different people and throw them all together. In addition to actors, dancers, and singers, a theatrical production needs good electricians, visual artists, carpenters… the possibilities do seem endless.
And children stand to benefit from being exposed to the many individual and interconnected disciplines in life.
This post is part of the series: We Need Drama, Music, Art and Dance in Education
- Music, Art, and Drama in the Classroom: An Essential Part of Learning
- Reasons to Include Drama in the Curriculum
- Dance in Education: Choosing Dance over Sports
- Drama Lesson Plans for Kids: Pantomimes for Non-Readers
- Drama Games and Acting for Kids: Pantomime Ball Toss
- Drama Games and Activities: Who Wears This Hat?
- Use Drama in School: Write a Commerical Lesson Plan
- Teaching Drama: Acting and Emotions
- Two Drama Games For Elementary Students: Warm-Up Activities
- Use the Machine Game to Warm Up Your Students