Smart Arts

Last night I was asked the question “Why should Homestead students attend the musical?”  It was for the school newspaper and normally an innocent question.  But then I thought, why is this even a question?  Why wouldn’t students come to the show?  Over 100 HHS students work on and are in the musical, they have to have friends, right?  Why do students and faculty go to football games?

To support their team, right?

Well, that goes the same with the arts.  Think of the guts it takes to get up on stage and act in front of hundreds of people, all staring at you.  I’ve been told it’s a different rush then playing a sport.  It’s the applause that gets you.

But back to my question. Why should HHS students attend the musical?  To have fun, to support their friends and classmates, to see something different and most importantly, to grow into well rounded individuals. A Stanford University study found that students who had a strong background in the arts significantly outperformed non-arts connected peers.  “Arts students are four times likelier to win academic awards and participate in math and science fairs. They have fewer disciplinary infractions, and they achieve higher math and verbal SAT scores.”

To ask “why come”, is to ask WHY THE ARTS?

A UCLA study found that students who regularly act in plays or musicals, join drama clubs or take acting lessons showed improvement in reading proficiency, self-concept and motivation. While those constantly involved with instrumental music scored significantly higher on math tests. These findings held true for any student regardless of parents’ income, occupations or levels of education. With the Arts as a backdrop for learning and experiencing positive social behavior, social compliance, collaboration with others, ability to express emotions, courtesy, tolerance, conflict resolution skills, and attention to moral development all seem to click and be expressed among the students (Catterall, 2000).  These are the skills parents hold most dear in teaching their children, and not surprisingly these are also the skills employers look for as well. 

It is only natural to assume that different art forms will develop a student cognitively and socially in equally as different ways.  From music, to dance and drama and finally the visual arts, all explore different parts of the brain and develop different aspects of it.  Take Music as an example. It is known to help us with spatial reasoning and spatial-temporal reasoning. Spatial reasoning is involved in many other things we value: the ability to plan almost anything, solving mathematical problems, and scientific processes.   Through the use of music in understanding written words, we can branch off into drama where we put to use the reading skills. Drama shows regular effects on narrative understanding as well as on component skills, such as identifying characters, understanding character motivations, reading and writing skills, and interpersonal skills such as dealing with conflict. It is drama that reinforces what music taught us, helping form the written language, by speaking and acting it.  Both drama and dance contribute to increased self-confidence, persistence, social tolerance, and appreciation of individual and group social development.  Dance also ties into creativity in other forms of expression, namely poetry, but also allows the student to be more original, fluent and flexible when faced with life and challenges.  Finally consider our visual arts. What we do know is that drawing is an effective raconteur of learning in history and also contributes to organization and persistence in writing.  Training in the visualization part of art contributes to reading skills, while reasoning about visual art seems to transfer to reasoning about science.

It’s not art for the sake of art. It’s art for meaning.


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