Exposing Kids to the Arts: The Possibilities are Endless...and Important
The other day I received an invitation from our town to be a "teacher for a day" as part of a new program they're promoting. Ostensibly, this was aimed at getting parents involved so that they could have a better understanding of what happens in the classroom. But I think they have an additional motivation.
Though our Board of Ed has a reputation for supporting the arts--especially our award-winning music program--I think they are scrambling to find new ways to deal with dwindling arts funding. And inviting parents who have a special skill into the classroom (mine's teaching poetry to kids), is one clever way to do it.
According to a New York Times study, there's evidence to suggest that American schools are cutting back on teaching art and music in order to concentrate on "No Child Left Behind:" i.e., improving student's basic skills.
From my experience, that's going about things completely backwards. I've found that if you engage a child's creative interest, you can teach them anything. But bore them with drills and you lose a learner.
Many experts agree. According to visionary cultural leader, Sir Ken Robinson, "we are educating people out of their creativity." In a fascinating talk he gave on TED.com, he argued that we've been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers, and that "students with restless minds and bodies — far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity — are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences."
Luckily for parents who, like me, lament the emphasis on "teaching to the test," in schools, a lot of learning can still take place outside of them. There are plenty of easy ways to connect children to the arts, if you know how and where to look for them.
The most obvious is to simply take your child to a museum or concert. But be forewarned, they won't always appreciate it until they're actually there. I have found that introducing kids to the arts can be a little like exposing them to a new food: it can take a few tries before they develop a taste. It helps to include them in the process of selecting an exhibit, showing them pictures from different museum offerings for example, before you go to gauge interest levels for each particular choice.Continued on the next page