Since its inception as part of the public education system in the late 1800s, arts education has had its ups and downs, but currently most educators and parents believe the arts should be an integral part of every student’s education.
The U.S. House passed a 2010 resolution to designate the National Arts in Education Week every September. This year, it started Sunday and ends Saturday.
Brevard Cultural Alliance for more than 30 years has served schools and communities by making arts education accessible and by enhancing existing school programs. The Alliance has observed many trends in education over the years; however the changes we are experiencing in the present are very different. We are at the portal of a radical shift in the way we live and work.
Experts talk about the end of the information age, and the rise of a new economy centered on smart systems, creativity and ideas. This is good news for arts education.
Business leaders are demanding a larger role for the arts to equip students for the future workforce. Abilities fostered through arts education, such as problem solving, critical thinking and creativity will be the top three skills to succeed in life and career.
Aware of these challenges and opportunities, the Brevard Cultural Alliance is constantly exploring and implementing new methods and strategies to better respond to current school priorities. Our education programs go beyond enhancing participants’ artistic skills, facilitating cross-curricular integration and project-based education to increase participants’ academic performance. They deliver transferable 21st Century skills, with an emphasis on creativity, innovation and STEAM, the addition of ‘A’ for art, to STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
Among other initiatives, each year the Alliance, Brevard Public Schools and Brevard Schools Foundation implement the Next Generation Artist Residencies program. It provides host schools with intensive classroom instruction from professional artists within a variety of artistic disciplines ranging from dance and music, to visual arts and STEAM. During the 2016-17 school year, 15 schools hosted residencies that served 3,560 students.
Any discussion about the importance of the arts will be incomplete if we only refer to the most basic value of the arts. There is an essential aspect of the arts that makes them indispensable in education. It is hard to measure, and almost impossible to quantify through test scores, but is equally important.
This is what some call the intrinsic value of the arts. Sometimes the arts do not seem to have a practical utility, but its experiential value is irreplaceable. The arts can positively impact the life of a student who is struggling academically and personally or may provide that needed space for a student to create and get re-energized for the rest of the school day. Perhaps it can be the reason a young person decides to stay in school.
Through our programs, we collect anecdotal data about the impact on students’ lives and reviewing them helps to gain a better understanding of what the arts do for all of us.
For example last year a teacher wrote “M.S. is a student who has been retained due to lack of effort, absenteeism and defiance. By working in the mosaic project his habit of ‘eye rolling’ and back talk was transformed into productive work. I was very pleased to see him come to school before hours on the day of our dedication to be part of the unveiling ceremony. I believe this project made a very positive impact on this young man’s life.”
Certainly more books, theses and studies will be dedicated to the subject of arts education. At the same time, those of us who work on this area and the students who benefit from creating, performing and experiencing the arts, will continue enjoying them and discovering new ways to use arts education to make our lives and the ones around us better.
Pablo Remonsellez is the education and community arts manager of Brevard Cultural Alliance.
Article Originally Published In: http://www.floridatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/09/11/opinion-art-complements-stem-education/654172001/