Communicating about the Arts
Nancy Harris Frohlich is a retired educator who moved to Maine and settled in the mid-coast. She started LEAPS of IMAGINATION to provide more art making opportunities for elementary students. The LEAPS philosophy: We believe that all children are imaginative thinkers, and that if we give them the opportunity to use their imaginations in school by making art, they will thrive.
LEAPS of IMAGINATION brings local Maine mentor artists together with elementary school students and teachers in a collaborative school-day classroom program. Mentor artists interweave in-depth art making experiences with carefully chosen social justice and literature themes linked to the class curriculum. Our project empowers children to believe in their own capacity to create and to make change in both their local community and the larger world.
I receive emails with these type of questions: “How do I convince people that more funding is needed for art supplies?” and “I want to start an elementary chorus, how do I go about that?” and do I communicate to my administration that we need to increase time for small group lessons?” and “Field trips have been cut from the budget, how can I get my students to an art museum?”
In the fall Nancy wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper during arts week. It’s a great example of advocating to educate. This needs to take place at many levels; school-base with administration and teachers of other content and grade levels, district-wide, community/regionally, and beyond. I’ve always believed that our first responsibility is to teach students, and in addition, adults. Since adults are almost always the ones who make the decisions they need to be informed about why the arts are essential.
As you prepare budgets for next year what will you communicate about the needs for a comprehensive arts education? With Youth Art Month and Music in Our Schools Month just around the corner, how will you use the opportunity to communicate and educate your community? I urge you to begin planning your action steps.
Below is Nancy’s letter to the editor. Even though she uses the word “art”, it certainly can apply to music, dance, theater and media arts. Nancy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A great big thanks to Nancy for the work she continues to do!
Art Makes Kids Smart
Another academic year has begun, and every year invites new opportunities for teaching and learning. As educators, our work is about designing a more powerful and relevant curriculum in a world in which sea change is the norm. Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind and Drive, reminds us that, “The future no longer belongs to people who can reason with computer-like logic, speed, and precision. It belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind.” We can teach our children to learn differently. Through art.
Art is a vehicle through which children learn to connect their ideas, to be persistent when problems arise, and to work collaboratively with their peers – all skills critical for the future. Art teaches children to use their imaginations, to bring an idea to fruition, and to believe in themselves – not just in the studio but in the classroom, where kids can apply the skills they learn in art to all academic domains.
Art has a long-standing tradition in schools, and it’s time we start changing the way we think about it, because we now know that art changes minds.
- Here’s what art can do for children today:
Art can build thinking mindsets. Art teaches kids to find connections, make inferences, analyze, and pull their ideas together into a new and inventive whole.
- Art cultivates student passions, motivating them to think big.
Art immerses kids in real-world challenges. When kids are focused on critical issues in today’s world, art gives them an avenue through which to articulate their perspectives.
- Art teaches children to collaborate. Shared projects and shared thinking open up opportunities for critical skills like negotiation and consensus building.
- Art invites presentations, critique, and feedback. When kids bring their work to an audience they learn to articulate their ideas and listen to what others have to say about them.
- Art develops risk taking behaviors in a safe and creative context. If children are going to play a positive role in their world, they have to know what it feels like to bounce back from mistakes and disappointment and to take the risk to think big for everyone’s future.