Many parents are familiar with the merits of arts in education for their children. But, some may not realize that creative pursuits also have tangible academic benefits. Studies show that integrating the arts in education significantly improves test scores and measurable intelligence, plus it develops math and language ability.

 

Test Scores and Graduation Rates Improve

Kids use more of their brain when learning through art. Long-term retention increases, for example, and children develop a greater understanding of concepts—not to mention, they’re more likely to pay attention, according to Dr. Matthew Lynch.

“When students are allowed academic expression through artistic means, like drawing a picture or writing a song, the information is embedded in their minds. Long-term learning and practical application of knowledge are both supported when the arts are integrated.”

Lynch notes that a New York public middle school saw an eight percent improvement in language arts scores, a nine percent increase in math scores, and reduced absenteeism after implementing an arts integration program. A Florida study had similar results in 2013, including a dramatic decrease in dropout rates when youth took more than four arts classes. Graduation rates were greater than 93 percent for students who took arts classes, more than 30 percent higher than those who did not.

Government officials have also taken notice. The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities has, in fact, recommended increased focus on arts education. The 2011 report highlights the spatial-temporal reasoning developed by studying music—as well as enhanced problem-solving, critical, and creative thinking skills, among others—as reasons to devote more attention to arts in schools. In addition, a Washington Post article cites the document’s emphasis on increased test scores due to arts integration in schools.

Arts outside the Classroom Also Beneficial

But, it’s not just arts in schools that help kids get better grades; extracurricular artistic pursuits also support academic achievement. A University of Toronto study in 2004 found a group of six-year-olds scored three points higher on IQ tests after a year of music lessons. In the same study, kids who studied drama didn’t have higher IQs but experienced behavioral benefits. The difference between kids who study music and those who don’t is also noticeable on neurological tests, which show increased neural activity in musically trained kids.

How Parents Can Increase Arts in Education

Enthusiastic parents who want to support their child’s learning have many options. The nuts and bolts of arts are everywhere—from a box of crayons to grand cultural monuments in urban communities. Parenting writer Grace Hwang Lynch recommends engaging with children using crafts associated with their cultural heritage such as making kites on Japanese Children’s Day. Local museums often have youth programs or designated family attendance days, and parents can cultivate awareness of art and creativity in the community by pointing out architectural details or murals on buildings.

Families can keep it simple by providing space and materials for children to be creative. Especially with young kids, formal art materials aren’t necessary; modeling clay, paper, fabric, wool, shells, buttons, and other trinkets can be the building blocks of many a child’s imagination. Parents can also expand on children’s existing interests to spark an interest in art—kids who like nature can be exposed to wildlife or landscape painters and photographers, while those who enjoy science fiction might appreciate surrealist sculpture and visual media.

Benefits Go beyond Academics

Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss notes that the value of arts in education goes beyond higher test scores and encourages youth to be creative, engaged adults. Similarly, Dr. Eric Rasmussen of the Early Childhood Music Department of Johns Hopkins University told PBS blogger Laura Lewis Brown that, in his view, music education is valuable simply for music’s sake: “Your understanding of art and the world, and how you can think and express yourself, are enhanced.”

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