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Children develop cognitive skills and language skills from participation in arts activities Arts in school projects, 1990. For example, development of mathematical concept may be incorporated in music and art where children learn about sequence, position, shapes and patterns (Booth, 1982 as cited by Kolbe, 1991). Children may need to understand the sequence of events to relate to the beats of the musical instruments when using musical instruments to re-enact the sound of wind as in the story of three little pigs. As for art in relation to making of puppets, children may learn about shapes and positions. Language development may be incorporated in drama when children express their thoughts verbally, for example, when they are asked for words to describe the characters in the stories.
Arts education contributes to the affective development in that it helps children to develop emotions and virtues (Arts in school projects, 1990; Winston, 2010). Through stories and dramas, children may develop understanding on moral values. The story of the three little pigs concludes with the three little pigs living together in the brick house and the big bad wolf is killed. Children may gain some understanding on the value of caring and sharing, diligence and also that the bad will be punished. By playing games and puppetry with friends, children learn to express their thoughts and to socialise with others.
Children communicate through various ways, such as verbal language, body expressions, gestures, drawings or sound, which may be regarded as symbolic representations (Gardner, 1979 as cited in Wright, 1991). As all forms of arts may be associated with symbolic representations, education through the arts may be one way where children learn to relate to each other and also to the real world. Children may use representations like drawings or objects to reconstruct their life experiences so as to make sense of it (Kolbe, 1991). For example, they may draw pictures of their family members. This in turn help the child to develop the childââ‚¬â„¢s understanding of himself and relationship to his family.
It is in the human nature to play and most activities relating to children may be seen as play to them (Swanwick, 1988). There is no constraints or barriers in play so children may be willing to explore different roles and ideas, and as a result, they may learn more effectively (Pinciotti, 1993). Arts Education may be equated to a form of play as the activities may be child-initiated and children derive enjoyment and satisfaction from the process of playing (Dau, 1991). As in play, children learn through the processes of imitation, imagination and mastery in the arts (Swanwick, 1988). According to Piaget, imitation is a form of accommodation. When children extend on existing knowledge through imagination, they may have assimilated and achieve mastery of new information (Swanwick, 1988). This may be in the case of re-enacting the sound of wind with musical instruments. Children choose the instruments based on their past experiences and imagination to re-enact the sound they wanted. Arts provide opportunities for children to explore and refine their skills through these three elements of play.
Moreover, children are able to express their thoughts through drama hence allowing it to be a mean of communication (Swanwick, 1988; Pinciotti, 1993). When children discuss the character of the wolf, they may be given opportunities to voice their opinions on the action of the wolf and thus promote verbal language development. They may also express their thoughts through body movement and gestures during role play. By working on the facial expression and body gestures, children may learn other means of communicating their thoughts.
Arts encourage children to explore and solve problem (Swanwick, 1988). Children may need to explore ways to make the puppets and other models. They have to work out on the space required and the proportion of the puppets when drawing them. In this way, they may learn to relate to spatial and relative context as well as to learn of ways to make the puppets such that they make sense to others (Cooke, Griffin & Cox, 1998). Furthermore, it will foster childrenââ‚¬â„¢s observational skills and thinking process (Kolbe, 1991)
Children learn to socialise, empathise with and relate to others from different perspectives (Parsons, 1991; Pinciotti, 1993). In drama, they may have different interpretations on the roles and thus there may be different versions of the characters. As such, the children may have to come to an agreement on the ideas for defining the characters. Along the way, they may acquire negotiation and collaboration skills. In the case of small world play, children may share ideas about the materials, props and how to use them. In doing so, they develop communication and negotiation skills. Puppetry may break down barriers and allow children to express their thoughts through playing with finger puppets. As a result, children may gain new understanding of the world as their knowledge increase through interaction and collaboration (Pinciotti, 1993).
Arts also help to build confidence and self-esteem and provide opportunities for children to be sociable (Arts in school projects, 1990; Parsons, 1991). In the case of playing games, barriers are broken down and children tend to be more relax and thus providing opportunities for social development. For example, children may need to discuss and decide on which musical instrument best represent the sound effect they wanted to create. They may be able to gain confidence working in a team as they have the opportunities to initiate or to participate in discussion.
In addition, arts may encourage critical thinking and diversity. As children share their thoughts on similarities and differences through discussion and action, it helps them to understand and accept differences in opinions and reduce prejudices. Through interviewing the wolf, where the teacher plays the role, children may also learn to examine the issue from different perspectives. For example, the wolf may answer that it is his sneeze that caused the house to be blown down. This answer may set the children to think if the pigs are too hasty in their judgement of the wolf. These exercises may aid the children to compromise and listen to otherââ‚¬â„¢s ideas or explanations when there is conflict.
As most arts are open-ended projects, there may be many solutions to an issue. As such, it encourages thinking and exploration (Pinciotti, 1993). These can be seen in the various ways to build the houses, children can experiment with various materials to make the walls of the houses, like straws, cardboards or paint. They can also make different types of houses, like drawing a picture of a house or making a model of the house. Children may be able to suggest new ideas thus boosting their self-confidence.
Dramatisation provides an excellent platform for literacy and language development. Children may develop their aural skills while listening to the stories or watching performance. They may develop on their oral skills when acting or during brainstorming session (Arts in school projects, 1990).
Drama is usually done in a group. As such, children need to interact and relate to their peers to brainstorm on ideas. By doing so, children learn to be sociable and pick up communication and negotiation skills (Arts in school projects, 1990). They may gain some insight of the real world, where there are diverse cultures and differences in ideas. For example, during dramatisation of a story like the three little pigs, the houses that the three pigs built may not be what the children expected. In the case of Singapore, majority of the children live in flats. As such, the children may be involved in an exchange of ideas about housing around the world.
By extending a story during dramatisation, as in the case of Jack and the beanstalk, children may be required to consider from the perspective of the giant. Jack may be wrong to take the golden harp from the giant without permission.
Children learn self-control as they may have to abide by the rules they have set for the drama. Children may develop a sense of independence as they need to make decisions while working as a team. They may be able to be confident, initiate discussion or participate in discussion confidently (Pinciotti, 1993).
However, to optimise the childââ‚¬â„¢s learning, the role of the teacher would be important to lead the children so as to optimize their learning. Arts introduced to children depend on the expertise and interest of the teachers (Arts in school projects, 1990). If the teachers are enthusiastic and have positive knowledge on the arts, she will be able to motivate the children to take an interest in the subject, thus making learning in arts more interesting and informative. In addition, most early childhood settings seem to be take arts education as a part of the curriculum rather than to develop the curriculum from the arts.
Thus although arts may be important for the education on young children, its effectiveness may be dependent on the beliefs of the early childhood settings and teachers.