Milton the Mouse became a very smart mouse in the Stewart household.
He even found a way to express his own joy and contentment.
This story is my salute to the Arts!
Part 4. Expressive Arts and Mental Health
In my last blog I gave an example from my own childhood of things that can be done at home to promote the Arts. I hope parents will re-think what they offer at home and figure out age-appropriate ways to expand on that. Make it fun, and let the Arts become a joy.
Here is another way that the Arts help with learning, which will make your child smarter: Art, music, dance, drama, and creative writing are ways to express what is inside each of us. We give form to ideas, thoughts, feelings, and exploration. Many a great idea has not jelled until it was worked out in the form of a sculpture, drawing, 3-Dimensional project, graphic art form, or a live performance. When an inventor/creator/artist forms ideas into something concrete, they are able to see the whole, able to see the parameters, and sometimes even locate unexpected flaws that may limit success. That may mean doing it more than once to get it right. This never would have happened without something to touch, bend, mold, weave, glue, manipulate, or a chance to act out, play on an instrument, or dance.
At the same time, and on the same budget, another major factor is at work: a way to release tensions. That tension release often removes personal barriers to learning. It helps “clear the air” so that the student can concentrate more fully on classroom lessons. They will learn more and retain more information; that makes a student smarter.
Expressing oneself in an art form is both a release and a sharing. This can build empathy and community. That sounds serious, and sometimes it is, but that sharing can also bring laughter, toe-tapping, festive fun, and even moments of sheer beauty. For the student artist, it leads to better attitudes and moods, which can translate into a sense of accomplishment, contentment, and improved personal behavior. This helps them connect with others in a positive manner.
Whoa! This sounds like a boost in mental health. Isn’t this a major concern among children and teens at this time? Crafting an art work gives the student artist a feeling of control and a chance to say, “this is mine”. That sense of accomplishment surely beats depression or thinking about suicide. Given a nonverbal way to express oneself brings about the release of inner tensions. If feelings can be worked out in clay or on the drums, there is no need to bully someone else.
The whole school is affected when Expressive Arts are available to all students. School morale goes up. That has been observed again and again. That’s not all: truancy is reduced; problems of graffiti and playground behavior are reduced; student conduct improves, behavior can be more self-directed, and youngsters demonstrate an increased ability to stick with a task.
Onlookers may worry that Arts learning activities look suspiciously like fun, and they are. They might say the art classroom is a bit chaotic, the drama rehearsal a little wild. Good teachers know how to channel that energy into creative works. That means the students get to move around, help themselves to materials, speak up when necessary, or work cooperatively on a large project. A bit of controlled chaos yields wonderful results when directed and shaped by a trained teacher.
Next we tackle the School budget. Read more next week about the ongoing battle. If monies are tight, the Arts usually take the hit. Just a frill? Stay tuned.