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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

What can we do to create more interest in the fine arts in children under the age of 13 years old?

What can we do to create more interest in the fine arts in children under the age of 13 years old?

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As a professional musician who started his musical training at the age of 7, I am disturbed by the lack of interest in music and the arts of our younger generation today. When I began studying music, all of my friends were studying, too. It seemed to be the "thing to do"! However, that is not the case today. Being one of several young musicians in my elementary and high schools, I had to COMPETE for the job of playing for the school shows, concerts, and providing accompaniment for competitions. However, there seems to be no students within the schools today, who are capable of providing these services. (My assumption is based on the number of schools that call on ME to provide accompaniment for their school shows, concerts, and competitions.) What can we do to encourage our young children to explore the arts?

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Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

I am a broken record. Arts belong in the classroom daily from K to 12. And then in college it must be required that every student have a strong knowledge of Music and Arts Appreciation FOREVER!!
Our nation is moving away more and more from the beauty of the arts.
Arts programs are being cut and our children are being cheated.
Teachers should be demanding more college training in Arts Education.

Without the arts, life is empty and lacks meaning.

I agree with all of you.
The banks and Wall Street could make such a huge difference in Education.

How do we convice legislators that this is important.
It is a huge challenge.

Andrew's picture
Andrew
K-8 Music Teacher from Green Bay, Wisconsin

One word - Soccer. Look back 30 years ago and find the number of soccer teams in your community - there were very few, if any. Now look, it's everywhere...and kids are playing it about from the time they can run without falling over. It looks like a gaggle of geese around a bowl filled with feed as children run to the ball, having no clue about where it is going or how to get it there. But parents are coaching it, and their kids play...rain or shine.

Now why doesn't that exist in the world of the arts? Perhaps because the arts are viewed as being something that is not a participatory game. It is to be performed by professionals and watched from afar.

The arts are so valuable to our children in their formative years, but as kids come to school you can see that there was less and less exposure to the arts at home. The songs they sing (or don't) the horrible motor control as they haven't gotten through the scribble stage.

A child's doodle, is it art? A sing songy all over the place tune, is it music? To our society that over critiques everything (case in point - American Idol) no it isn't. But the kids can run around the field and eventhough I don't understand all the rules, I can coach - and therefore soccer fills in the gaps.

By the time kids reach an age where they can get involved in school and find that they love music or art (if their programs haven't already been eliminated) their time has been filled with something else.

Now we aren't going to eliminate soccer, but as an arts community, groups need to target children at a younger age. Bring them in before they find something else to fill their time. That is why we have started to target 6 year olds for the Green Bay Boy Choir, so that we can actually beat Cub Scouts to them.

Now can we just get the 24/7 arts channel on cable to compete with the multiple versions of ESPN?

Adam Fine's picture

There are so many ways in which humans communicate, lending to many languages within mutually communicable (or sometimes not through words alone) communication systems.
The description of a Mark Rothko painting is nothing like viewing it in a darkened room with a single dimmed spotlight on it. The connotative language of poetry is far removed from the denotative language of a math textbook. Books can be written on symphonies, when they themselves, may have no words at all. Then there's tone of voice, body language, etc.
What I'm getting at is that an understanding of art is entirely necessary within the sphere of human communication. We should be allowed to work with visual and auditory arts, drama/acting/role-playing, breaking down entertainment and news media into its parts. If a student feels the best way to communicate her/his idea is by making a short film rather than writing an essay, there should be in place within the curriculum the ability for student and teacher to negotiate that.
My first foray into art was through comic book illustration. I eventually went to do by BA (Hons) Fine Art in England, utilizing drawing, film, animation, the written word, and several years later it has brought me to learning music. There are so many tools at our disposal to communicate appropriately with one another, that it seems silencing in a way to remove an emphasis on and exposure to the arts. And you wouldn't know that unless you experienced this exposure in the first place.

Michelle Baldwin's picture

I do not blame sports or other activities for the decline in students participating in arts activities. It is very simple- as many have mentioned above, the arts have not been a priority in schools. When public education cuts these programs, students have fewer opportunities to become involved. Private music lessons are far more costly for families. When schools - or decision-makers in the schools- decide which programs to remove, they are deciding what areas are the priorities for kids. With obesity becoming such a huge problem in our country, most school districts are extremely hesitant to cut physical education programs... and they shouldn't. When standardized test scores are elevated to unreasonable heights, as they are now, time allotted for those subjects on the tests is usually increased. That doesn't leave room for subject areas that are not tested. Even though all the research indicates that students involved in the arts are more likely to be better problem-solvers and think more critically and creatively... when we allow testing to consume our children's education, this is the result. Oddly, though... take a look at which states have the highest standardized test scores and highest graduation rates (and most rigorous standards for graduation), and you will find arts education has a place in those schools. Coincidence? I think not.

Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

Dear Artists,

This is focused on computer drawing and coloring tools that are free online at a website highly recommended by the American Federation of Teachers and Teachers.net Gazette:

http://www.timtim.com/

It is very suitable for elementary school age children and upper levels as well...

I just used the "Color Donald Duck" example coloring tools and it was very easy to use and fun to do... (This one is pretty basic and certainly "proudly accomplishable" by most any youngster...

Of course I am 'old-fashioned enough' to suggest that these computer coloring and drawing tools can carry-over to hand-drawing and coloring skills and art projects as well...

Cartoons are virtually universal and highly popular with kids; that is how I began drawing 55 years ago...and still draw most everyday, today...

phineas8888

Lawrence Weiss's picture
Lawrence Weiss
Private music teacher and parent of three students

I am involved in a newly-formed strategic planning group for our public school system. A question arose by some members who want to mandate fine arts and music instruction from K to 12. Is anyone aware of any school districts that do this, and what are the results?

Chris Ortiz's picture
Chris Ortiz
Student, actor, writer

Trying to encourage younger children to engage in activities that involve the fine arts can be a daunting task as you have noted. As a student I would suggest a very abstract style. Using games, extra-activities, and interpersonal interaction are the three best ways to reach them. One thing to be mindful of is the varying sensitivity levels that children may have. Hypothetically, Tommy may not mind getting it right off the bat, however Johnny may get frusterated with not having an adequete amount of personal attention that he may want to satisfy his need to know that he is doing it right. A good way to avoid that is to have maybe an older student or another staff member help with overseeing things like this (plus its a little stress of you too :]) Finally, make sure there is just the right amount of challenge to it. Don't make it so hard that too much thinking is involved. Alternitivly don't make it so easy that they lose interest. I hope I help in some way and or didn't repeat someone ^^; All the same, good luck in your endeavor and don't lose faith!

KellyAnn Bonnell's picture
KellyAnn Bonnell
Education and Outreach - Arts for Social Change Director

I'm choosing to respond to the core of your question as I interpret it, "What can I do to increase interest in music with younger students" If I've misinterpreted I apologize.

There are a few instruments that allow you to begin to teach the basics of reading and making music at a reasonable price point. The recorder is a melody instrument that is relatively inexpensive and requires the skill set necessary to read and create music. Drums are a rhythm instrument that is relatively inexpensive because most kids start with a practice pad and drum sticks. These simple experiences will find those students who are called to explore learning an instrument and hopefully increase the number of students in your band and orchestra classes. Teaching music theory in a way that allows children to compose engages them quickly and in a very real manner. I did a blog post on an online service that allowed users to make their own compositions.

In today's environment the challenge becomes how to integrate the experience so that children receive regular instruction. By working with classroom teachers and those responsible for specials there is a way to build comprehensive support for instrumental learning but it takes some work. Perhaps the children learn a recorder song associated with a history lesson and then use drum rhythms to support a PE lesson. The music teacher on staff will have to build the capacity of classroom teachers to support such an endeavor but its doable.

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