Developing the Whole Child Through the Arts
Education and the arts are perceived as two separate entities, when in actuality they are symbiotic in design. Research in arts education clearly shows a direct correlation between participation in the arts and both social and academic success. Research conducted by Champions of Change (1999) found that students who participated in the Arts performed better overall academically and that this participation "levels the playing field" for students from "disadvantaged circumstances". Students who participated regularly in the arts attained higher levels of achievement than students who had not in almost every category. More and more arts-based programming in our NYC schools is being replaced with literacy and math instruction. How then are we, as educators, expected to cultivate creative problem solvers when the arts, the vehicle that supports the development, appreciation, and understanding of creativity, are being extricated from our programming? If the research clearly supports the arts and its critical developmental role in education, how have institutions and organizations begun to address this issue?
As budgetary restrictions on school monies increase, principals have had to become more strategic and resourceful in sustaining and bringing arts programming back to their schools. Principals like Ms. Reed from JHS 217 in Jamaica Queens, has approached this challenge by embracing a visual/performing arts based after school program (The Queens Cultural Partnership PASE/Bank Street College collaboration). Teachers at JHS 217 have cleverly introduced personal hobbies such as keyboarding, computers, sewing, and theater into their core subjects to both enhance their students' learning experiences and address the diversity of learners that exist in their classrooms.
Bank Street College recognizes and understands the growing need for arts based education and has created partnerships with cultural institutions, including Lincoln Center for the Arts, Queens Museum of Art, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, and organizations that support Arts education, such as Young Audiences. Bank Street has supported this initiative by becoming a liaison between NYC public schools and teaching artists from various cultural institutions. Professional development training is then provided to both the teaching artist and the classroom teacher on child development and curriculum planning to create a unit that focuses on developing the whole child.
While these and other innovative programs exist to support and perpetuate arts education, the reality is that more funding needs to be allocated to the endowment of the arts in NYC public schools. As educators, our responsibility to assist in a child's development is dependent upon recognizing the diverse talents and abilities the children possess and providing opportunities to support those talents with educational options, like the arts. The challenge is to rethink how we, as educators, artists, administrators and policymakers, can advocate for increased funding in support of the arts and a recognition of its role in education. #
Marnie Ponce is the Coordinator of Professional Development for After School Educators, Bank Street College of Education