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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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Felisa McCullum's picture

As a music instructor/choir director I make sure community events are a part of our schedule. I put the spotlight on my 5th and 6th graders to let parents nad community leaders know how important the arts are.

Elizabeth Cunningham's picture

I believe that the desire to create is an intrinsic part of human nature that is at it's most crucial stage of development in children. I am sure that most students are much more interested in the arts than they are given credit for. As art's budgets are slashed and programs are removed from school, students may not be able to participate in the arts since lessons, materials and opportunity may be difficult to obtain (and pay for) in many families. Making time to connect the arts to what is currently being studied in the classroom is not the same as funding a true arts program, but it may be the only exposure some students have. In primary grades it seems that social studies is the logical choice for "art appreciation"-like activities. Bringing artists into the classroom is always an exciting way to increase awareness as are after school clubs and classes as well as field trips. However, the best way to accomplish this goal, is to actively teach art. If that is impossible in your school district, maybe it is possible to establish links with community-based arts organizations that are able to bring programs into your school or collaborate with your students after school..

Susana Browne's picture
Susana Browne
Education director at Maui Arts & Cultural Center

I totally agree with what you said.  As an education administrator for an arts and cultural center in a rural community, I know the difficulties of providing an arts education for all kids.  Believe me, if the arts are in a child's education, they thrive and develop a long lasting love and appreciation for all the arts in addition to developing 21st century skills that come with studying the arts.

Partnerships between performing arts centers, museums, and school districts are an excellent way to bring the arts into the classroom.  The Kennedy Center's Partners in Education is a national network with over 100 teams all across the country.  I highly recommend their resources.

Kimberly Waldin's picture
Kimberly Waldin
Performing Arts Consultant

I totally agree with all of the suggestions from the people above, but I do not think it can be said enough: the Arts belong in the classroom daily!

Every parenting magazine will tell you, babies do not care if you have a good voice! They will just love to hear you sing. The same is true of kids. Be fearless! Sing during morning circle with your students! Discuss, display, and create artwork when you discuss science. Engage in Reader's Theater, or even better, include writing assignments that ask students to write a scene, and then let them perform their work with their peers! Image what it is like to be the figures from history, and engage the students in role-playing. Play music while your students read and work.

If teachers do not make room for the Arts in the daily classroom, how can you expect your school districts to value it enough to spend money on specials classes and afterschool programs involving the arts? The Arts are not an extra to take up more teaching time. They are a fantastic teaching tool, and they will go a long way to helping your students make connections between their "lessons" and life all around them.

Christine Termini Passarella's picture
Christine Termini Passarella
Founder of The Kids for Coltrane Project in Education

I appreciate all of these great comments which continue to empower us as educators. Creating enriching learning environments is our quest. We clearly are finding barriers and there are many frustrations. It is illuminating to read everyone's ideas, especially those which help us navigate through the thicket. The great generative questions about how to get this all done will move us forward. Sometimes it feels like we are in a little boat stuck in a swamp. The beautiful island is right before us, and we can't get there, but get there we must! Creativity is vital for the future of this world, not only because of the ideas that must be born from the brilliance that is yearning to breathe freely, but also the humanity that springs from creativity. This is a magnificent global world. We are teaching for a future we cannot see. Educators must help lay the foundation and teaching through the Arts makes perfect sense. Creative thinking leads to understanding and develops richer critical thinking in my view. I have witnessed this first hand in my classroom. We must include the arts in the daily lives of students, and teaching through the arts does just that. When you stand up and do this you become a kind of super hero because it is a terrible injustice to allow children to live in a world without learning through the arts.

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