The arts in education

>> Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Somewhere I have a blog wherein I have occasionally posted thoughts I've written for school.  Some day I'll figure out where it is and combine everything into something more functional. Until then, I felt that this topic brought up enough emotional heat that I'd just share it with the rest of you! 

Definition: "The Arts" in my textbook includes visual arts (painting, sculpting, etc.), music, movement, dance, and theatre.

The assignment:  "What responsibility, if any, do early childhood professionals have to advocate for arts education in a community’s public schools? Explain your views.  Then choose one area of the arts and describe an argument you would use to make a case for a visual arts, music education, or creative movement program for children of all ages."

This subject is one in which I struggle to productively structure my thoughts because it simply seems too obvious. As educators we must somehow reach into every child and trigger motivation and a love of learning. People, regardless of age, are extremely complex creations. We know that people have different strengths and weaknesses and different ways of viewing the world, and that identifying and strategizing with each of these unique things is the key to accomplishing our goals with our students. To leave out the arts - visual arts, music, movement, dance, and theatre - excludes a significant segment of children from the potential of success. In a developmentally appropriate classroom that meets every child's needs, the arts must be available in equal measures with other styles of learning.

Not only do children often express their conscious thoughts, as well as process learning, by working creatively with their hands and bodies, but research has shown that the arts tap into a deeper subconscious that allows children to process things of which they are unaware. Music and visual arts are often used in therapeutic settings for children recovering from trauma or learning to cope with severe disabilities, emphasizing the vital importance of these methods of interaction (Kozlowska & Hanney, 2001), (Carpente, 2002). Allowing children daily experience with this part of their minds and souls gives them the opportunity to more easily access these areas in times of trouble or difficulty, and feel safe within themselves throughout those learning processes.

In the same way that some people learn best by listening, or learn best by seeing pictures, or learn best by reading text, other people learn best through a connection to music. In infancy, sounds enter the brain before the eyes are able to properly intake vision. Extremely young children are able to process and acknowledge differences in tones and pitches, and learn to identify individuals by their voices before they are able to see them clearly. Sound, and the processes of it through music, relates to our earliest natural abilities to learn. Many people find it much easier to memorize facts as lyrics to songs. The structure of sung speech imitates sound patterns required for developing strong reading skills. Many songs for young children are fundamental early literacy elements, such as rhymes and poetry, put to music.

I was somewhat dismayed, however, to see how little attention our textbook gave to the ways in which music links to more concrete elements. The structures of music follow the same structures of beginning mathematics, providing patterns and repetitions, the abilities to compare, contrast, and serialize in audio form, and the rhythms necessary for counting and number sense. "Early childhood educators, knowing that math and music share similar inherent characteristics, can use simple musical elements to introduce mathematical concepts, interactions, and ideas to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers" (Geist & Geist, 2008, p. 21).

Music also creates a direct link to science learning, as children can study sound itself, experiment with what kinds of substances carry sound and how, and learning about physiology and the ears, as well as developing empathy for the deaf and hard of hearing. Experiments can be done such as at the end of the movie, "Mr. Holland's Opus", in which orchestra music is translated into colored lights for the deaf audience.

Music instruction goes far beyond simply being enjoyable, providing the opportunity to move the body, and putting early literacy to melody. It also goes beyond easy integration into other content areas. Music is another area in which people are able to express the deepest emotions and thoughts, that carries the hopes and dreams of many cultures. By providing daily music education, our children can have another avenue through which they are valued and know that they are able to express their true selves and be accepted.

Carpente, J.A. (2002). Creative Music Therapy with a Boy with Multiple Impairments: Stepping out of isolation into new experiences. The Rebecca Center for Music Therapy. Retrieved from

Geist, K., & Geist, E.A. (2008). Do re mi, 1-2-3, that's how easy math can be. Using music to support emergent mathematics. Young Children. National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Kozlowska, K. & Hanney, L. (2001). An Art Therapy Group for Children Traumatized by Parental Violence and Separation. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, January 2001; vol. 6, 1: pp. 49-78.

Prairie, A. P., Isbell, R. T., & Raines, S. C. (2010). Teaching across the content areas: Math, science and the creative arts (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.



How in the world is it November already?  Seriously, folks, slow down! 

That said, we've only had the heat on for less than a week, and now today's high is 75 degrees, and we're out on the porch in short sleeves. It really is quite lovely, and gives us a great opportunity to air out the house.

I'm feeling a little bit better, but not a whole lot. The cough has changed, so I guess that's a good thing?  I don't know. But it's finally getting to wear on my very last nerve. Ah, well.  At least I can sleep laying down again.

This week is very stressful. Tomorrow morning we have the Certified Investigator coming for our first of two long homestudy interviews (more info on the adoption blog). Lanse is on crunch time at work, and is extremely stressed out from that. We're travelling for the holiday, so I'm trying to work ahead on my schoolwork, which means that Thursday I'm doing a classroom observation two weeks early, which necessitates me getting two weeks of reading done by then. And Colin is still very sick, and we're extremely unsettled about what could potentially happen while we're away, with pretty much every possibility. I also have to finish up creating some things that I need to take with us when we go.

That said, I'm relatively cheerful, and we've been having a lot of wonderful time with the Eastvolds (our goddaughter and her family). We'll be cat sitting for their new cat Napoleon while they're away this weekend, and that should be fun. He's very playful and snuggly. I'm also very much enjoying the reading I have in school, which is about the importance of the arts in early childhood education. Very cool stuff. So over all, I guess things are going well enough. We are definitely blessed.


About This Blog

Life is about changes; transitions from one place to another, from one purpose to another, from one being to another. They say that the person you are today is a completely different person from who you were ten years ago and who you'll be ten years from now. So far, at the age of 33, I've had four major transitions in my life which redefined who I am. Two years into the results of the most recent transition I am again - still - exploring how God is shaping me. Over the next few months I hope to review my past and set goals for the future, and embrace the next adventure of rediscovering me.

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