By Fargo Public Schools Curriculum Specialist Denese Odegaard
In the new Every Student Succeeds Act (reauthorization of No Child Left Behind), music and the arts were enumerated as subjects important in a well-rounded education. Research proves that the arts benefit students academically and socially. Exposure to the arts promotes self-directed learning, collaboration, creativity, perseverance, improves confidence and attendance, and sharpens critical thinking skills. At-risk youth who take an arts class find a place of belonging, engage in school in a much different manner, and decrease their drop-out rate. We also know that the arts improve school culture and decreases discipline referrals, along with facilitating cross-cultural learning and acceptance.
Our National Arts Standards teach the processes of creating, performing, and responding to music so students become independent in these processes which engage them in higher level thinking skills and 21st Century Skills (Collaboration, Creativity, Communication and Critical Thinking). These skills not only prepare students for the work force but more importantly, enrich their lives by being able to think creatively and develop new ideas, help them deal with stress, anxiety or depression, and gives them a sense of wellbeing and happiness.
We are fortunate to live in a culture-rich community with many opportunities for adults to participate in music, theatre, visual arts, and dance. Elementary, middle, and high school students who have learned the processes of creating, performing, and responding to music, are now much more prepared as an adult to engage in the arts within their own community. The arts bring joy to life and, much like eating healthy and exercising, enriches lives through social-emotion health. Participating or enjoying the arts in our community brings balance and fulfillment to one’s life.
We also know how the arts are unlocking the minds of Alzheimer’s patients through music. Many adults haven’t communicated with their loved ones for decades, but the minute music is played, it brings them back to a place of interactions with others. Dance gets seniors up and moving, and weaving and sculpting help with sequencing and spatial issues. Music therapy helps premature babies survive and thrive.
The arts boost self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment for adults. Creating art releases dopamine, which boosts drive, motivation and concentration and protects the brain from aging. Creating art decreases negative emotions and increases positive emotions. Arts engagement within the community creates a greater understanding of others and their cultures and openness for collaboration. Many cultures are represented in our community and the arts are a way of sharing our cultures.
Parents, encourage your children to continue participating in the arts throughout school and for life. When times get tough and they want to drop their arts classes, they just need encouragement to make it through uncertain times and will appreciate your perseverance later.
I challenge all adults to participate in art in our community and see what joy and sense of well-being you experience from it.