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Who's Dancin' Now?
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Who's Dancin' Now?

primer on arts education
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outreach & development

The arts can awaken curiosity, present new perspectives, and convey different ways of understanding our environment and ourselves. Through the active engagement of the arts, we think and we feel. Arts, therefore, are at the very core of learning.

The purpose of arts education is to provide students with the greatest opportunity to learn, and to maximize their emotional and intellectual capabilities. The arts can embrace these goals and promote such growth. Through participation in the arts, students not only develop their creative and cognitive capacities, but also cross barriers of class, race, language, and culture. Moreover, by helping students overcome the boundaries of traditionally isolated school disciplines, the arts help connect important concepts.

"Through the active engagement of the arts, we think and we feel. Arts, therefore, are at the very core of learning."
Arts education can provide a more holistic approach to teaching and learning in the classroom. Educators, psychologists, and policy advocates make significant contributions to the field through their studies, publications, and lectures. Cognitive psychologist Howard Gardner, for example, bolsters the argument for arts education in contending that the arts represent multiple ways of knowing, and multiple forms of intelligence.

Seven different intelligences exist as distinct "frames of mind," each having their own set of cognitive resources for locating, creating, and solving problems. The intelligences include: linguistic (found in a poet), logical-mathematical (found in a scientist), musical (found in a composer), spatial (found in an architect), bodily-kinesthetic (found in a dancer), interpersonal (found in a leader), and intrapersonal (found in an actor). Yet not all intelligences exist to the same degree in all individuals. Like most skills and talents, exposure and practice help augment an "intelligence." By their very nature, the arts encourage exploration in many of these domains, making it increasingly apparent that they are integrally involved in the intellectual and emotional framework of children.

Such research shifts artistic knowledge away from the static understanding that art is only a "feeling enterprise." Instead, arts education encourages the development of these other intelligences and explores viable entry points into learning. Recognizing that the intellectual make-up of students greatly varies, it is important that the educational communities -- within and beyond school walls -- reflect and embrace these differences in their methods of teaching and assessment.

In addition to providing multiple ways of knowing, the arts are used to engage students, encourage critical thinking and self-exploration, and help make learning fun. Schools with strong arts programs often cite improved attendance and student motivation, increased graduation rates, multicultural understanding, renewed and invigorated students and faculty, and greater community participation and support as consequences of the experiences. Such ramifications and instructional power only further confirm that the arts are basic to education.