Milton the Mouse began his Arts Training in the Stewart household
He loved Beethoven and quoted John Milton’s poetry
Milton became a very smart mouse
In my last Blog I discussed how the Arts improve student sensory perception—those avenues of input that affect the output in products and performance. I hope to involve parents in understanding how important the arts are for learning. For a close-to-home example I offer a bit of my own experience.
Where did I learn my Disciplines? It started at home; we had music and poetry at our house. This was part of everyday living. At any given moment my dad entertained us by reciting lines of famous poetry that he learned as a boy. He had been required to memorize poetry for Recitations given at a one-room Kentucky schoolhouse in the early 1900s. Families would gather to hear students do their best. It must have been a grand PTA night that included such wonderful poetry along with songs and other accomplishments. Those poetry lines lodged for life in Dad’s heart. From Dad’s at-home recitations I learned by ear many of the lyrical lines and poured over dad’s copy of One Hundred and One Famous Poems. As I grew older, the poetry lived in my own heart. I’ll never forget my 8th grade teacher moved to tears as she read aloud from the old story of Evangeline. Longfellow’s flowing lines were another kind of music. The Arts fill the soul as they give meaning to inner thoughts and feelings that we all share.
For music, mother started each of seven children on piano about age 3. A good beginning, the interest lasted with some of us, but not all. Mom established an enduring rule for practice: if any of us wanted to practice we had priority over the living room space, and the radio was turned off. No TV in those days. At school during WWII wartime we students had weekly general music class. In addition, we listened to the weekly Bell Telephone Hour (30 min.) of classical music over the school intercom, and occasionally, The Standard Hour. As we grew older, the folks found the means to buy each of us an instrument for the 4th and 5th grade instrumental programs. Joining the school orchestra or band, and later high school choir, we learned, practiced, and performed beautiful age-appropriate works. We learned to work as a unit and harmonize our efforts. The music helped me make sense of mathematics, partly because in marching band we accounted for every beat with movement that became kinesthetically engrained.
For art, my third-grade teacher introduced drawing and painting. One spring day we sat on the front steps of the school and drew the birch trees; we overlaid two crayon colors, yellow and blue, to form green. What a revelation! It introduced a world of color to me. As well, I learned that a watercolor sunrise has an orderly color sequence as the sun rises and the colors change. Another revelation. Those early lessons gave me new eyes and ears and also created in me a bond with nature. Mother let me try a special drawing class downtown; I remember I drew the same picture at every class (later in life I learned that’s a child development stage!); needless to say, my artistic training was brief at that time. My art inclinations paid off in high school biology, when we were asked to draw microscope specimens and other critters. I loved doing that.
Little did my folks understand they were making their children smarter; but we all did well in school. We developed artistic awareness, appreciation, and a lifelong joy in all the Arts. No wonder I am an Advocate for the Arts. They make life enjoyable, and they make kids smarter!
Another way the Arts improve learning is the fact that the activities improve morale, mood, and student behavior. What? That sounds like a boost to mental health! Can the arts fight student stress and depression? I will discuss this in my next blog. Stay tuned.