The WHY and WHAT of Arts Integration in Education

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by Mary Blouin, Education Specialist for BEE

 

As promised by Donna Bixby, in last week’s post, this week we will start to introduce you to the WHY and the WHAT of an Arts Integrated Education.

WHY? Because the Arts change Cognition and Conceptual Thinking, where new ideas, problem solving skills, abstraction, reflection,  and creative thinking occurs. To develop these parts of the brain, it is necessary to turn on the switches that are involved within these physical and chemical areas. The Arts have been proven to help growth and reinforcement in all these areas.

With pictures, physical theater, drawing, clay modeling, dancing, singing and painting, to name a few. These elements within an educational curriculum are capable of teaching our children to be the thinkers and reasoners they need to be for the future.

Sound familiar? Hearing these words a lot these days? Undoubtedly yes and for a good reason. It is not a new idea in how to educate children. In fact, it is very old one. It is something that teachers ALWAYS included 25-30 yrs ago when giving lessons to children. It was considered to be the best way to give them the “experience” of learning, as well as, the cerebral knowledge of what is learned.

WHAT is it all about?  The most simple way to explain how the Arts improve brain function is the difference between RAM (random access memory)and ROM (read only memory)in a computer’s processor. They are both memories, but they use their memories very differently. While ROM collects information and holds it permanently in the computer’s processor for later use by the processor, RAM, on the other hand, just takes what it needs temporarily for its purpose then it is lost when the purpose for the information is over or the computer processor is shut down.

Picture then, The Arts within a curriculum as ROM while a curriculum without the Arts as RAM. The Arts uses all of a body’s senses which activates the neurons in the brain for memory, fine and large motor skills, language processing and cognitive processing. 

By using the different Arts media, such as, music, visual performance, storytelling, drama, puppets, dance, clowning, musical instruments and re-enactments, etc., children EXPERIENCE what they are learning. This is a whole body experience, utilizing all their senses which is the key to long term learning. Because this kind of learning experience becomes a long term memory it is held in the brain for later use (ROM).

Linear, auditory processing, sequential learning, is what is happening in many classrooms today, because it is a very efficient way to relay information. While it may be efficient for teachers and administrators it is knowledge learned in and held within the short term memory of the brain (RAM). We know that this type of knowledge is only held for the time that it is needed and then it is lost when it is no longer in use.

Working with Arts Integration is a process that takes time and practice, but not so much so that you should be up hours every night creating new and wonderfully made things for your children to experience every day.  Not everything needs to be an elaborate Art lesson…

Next week: Join us here for – The HOW of Integrated Arts.

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