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Artistic creation has been a concept that individuals have engaged since the dawn of the century. Before human beings could even communicate clearly, they were carving into walls, painting, and using whatever resources they could find to build, create, and establish. The concept of art in general is extremely broad. The question pondering, “what is art?” has been a theory examined for eras, and yet, to this day, there is still no clear cut designation as to what art truly is. The dictionary defines art as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power (Webster Dictionary, 2018).” Ultimately, art is something that involves an imaginative and inspired element to create something that we can admire, question, or even just appreciate for what it is. Art can be created in unlimited forms and people of almost any age can engage in the creative process. In addition to these ideas, current research findings validate that the implementation of art courses, art history, and creative ability is extremely beneficial to the development of children. By being exposed to art in order to aid in developing creative thought and expression at an early age, children are able to gain an appreciation towards art and develop skills that will benefit them for their entire professional, and personal life.
The overall nature of art is an instrument in development and learning. With art being such a broad and open to interpretation type of subject, there are many different avenues in which one can take in order to interact with, learn about, and create unique art themselves. In relation to young children and other school age learners, current findings in the field of psychology express that there is a strong and positively correlated relationship between the areas of arts involvement, neurocognitive outcomes, social-emotional development, and overall academic skills (Bowen, Kisida & Greene, 2018). Ultimately, by experiencing exposure to art beginning at an early age, children develop interpersonal and intrapersonal skills that allow them to grow as individuals and connect with others. Their academic skills soar, their neurocognitive outcomes are greater compared to peers that may not have the same exposure to art, and their social-emotional development amongst others exceeds expectations because they are learning on a level that promotes creativity- something that allows for deeper connections to their own thought processes, and the mindsets of those around them.
In 2018, a research study conducted by (Bowen, Kisida & Greene, 2018), aided in supporting these claims about the importance of art exposure in youth. In 2012, just one year after opening, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (located in Arkansas), launched a program that allowed schools to visit the museum. The museum used a lottery system to pick which school groups would be allowed to participate, and this allowed for creating treatment and control groups for the study. Applicant groups that won the lottery constituted what was labeled as the treatment group, whereas the matched applicants that did not win the lottery system made up what was called the control group. As an incentive to be a part of this study, the control groups were given a spot in the museums program for the following semester period. To prepare the students for the program, the researchers stated, “Before visiting the museum, teachers of treatment group students were sent a packet containing a video orientation for teachers and students to watch that covered museum etiquette and emphasized that the tour would lean heavily on student-driven discussions about works of art (Bowen, Kisida, Greene 2018).” This technique was used to prepare the students for their visit to the museum, and prime them for their upcoming experiences.
After surveying the Kindergarten through 2nd grade students, the students in the treatment group had a considerably greater amount of knowledge about art. They were able to make connections, foster positive attitudes concerning cultural institutions, and overall outlooks on art itself. They made the questions easy enough for young children to understand with one for example asking students to label which picture was a portrait of George Washington. Children in the control group had exposure to this portrait at the museum and in class, while the control group did not. Due to their young age, researchers explained that “the surveys were read aloud to students by members of the research team and students’ response options were picture-based (thumbs-up and thumbs-down for yes/no responses; a range of happy and sad faces for Likert-based responses) (Bowen, Kisida & Greene, 2018).” Over all, the results from the treatment group showed much higher levels of positive feeling toward art in general, and students reported being more interested in artistic engagement as compared to the control group that lacked exposure to the museum and curriculum focused on art education.
The discoveries from this research study aid in truly highlighting the importance and significance of arts education in early childhood. Not only did the researchers tailor the experiment and surveys specifically to suit the children’s level of competence and understanding, they also added subtle questions that tested the knowledge of the students. An example of this would be when researchers asked the question if students could point to and distinguish which president George Washington was. The treatment groups were given an information session and interactive activity based on a portrait of George Washington in the museum, while the control groups may have learned about George Washington in the past, but they were not recently exposed to any type of artwork portraying the president or any type of interactive and artistic information session about the presidents. In addition to the results portraying that students in the treatment group had a significantly higher understanding towards what they learned about at the museum in comparison to children that did not have that artistic experience in the control groups, children in the treatment groups demonstrated a stronger love and appreciation towards art in general. Their responses consisted of happy faces and thumbs up, while participants in the control group lacked exposure to the arts, and were far more likely to find artwork and museums to be boring and unappealing.
The reason that this research is so significant is because it has been discovered by the National Endowment for the Art’s (NEA) that the most momentous predictor of adult arts involvement is linked to early exposure to the arts during the early childhood years. (Rabkin & Hedberg, 2011). By introducing art and allowing for creative experimentation at an early age, children will be far more prone to participating in these similar types of work ethics in their adult future. In addition to exposure, arts enrichment can provide for a significant amount of networks to acquire skills for school readiness. The research study about art exposure in the museum and classrooms discussed previously explained the importance of overall art exposure inside and outside of the classroom, while other allied research has discovered that arts supplementation in preschool activities is a major contributor to the aspects of higher achievement in school, school readiness and preparedness, and an overall increase in vocabulary skills (Brown, Benedett, & Armistead, 2018). This study also focuses more on the aspects of educational opportunities for students coming from diverse backgrounds and varying needs.
Although every student deserves equal opportunity to be exposed to art and creativity, the unfortunate reality is that many children coming from lower socio-economic statuses, poorer backgrounds, and minority groups are lacking exposure to arts education. Research has discovered that children from lower socio-economic backgrounds racial minority groups often experience a disconnection between their home life and school atmospheres, in turn, arts education may serve as a bridge to close these gaps and tie them together. (Scripp, 2007). Many parents rely on the school system to provide their children with an enriched education, due to the fact that they do not have the funds to allow for exposure through their own resources. Instead of letting lower SES students miss out on critical learning opportunities, schools step in as a significant aid in helping children become exposed to arts education. In this specific study, teachers used art education techniques to teach school readiness skills. Activities such as songs to teach the days of the week and dances to teach how to follow different sets of directions helped preschoolers and other young children learn fun and creative ways to prepare for their next steps in higher level schooling.
Full assimilation of the arts ultimately means that curriculum taught in early childhood programs typically incorporate factors such as visual arts, music, creative involvement, movement, expression, and other tools that promote skills to be prepared for school. By using the approach of integrating visual and performing arts into early childhood curriculum, children are more susceptible to perform better in school whether they are typically developing or at risk beginning from an early age (Phillips, Gorton, Pinciotti, Sachdev, 2010). Ultimately, the method used in this study compared receptive vocabulary from a group of children attending the “Kaleidoscope arts program”, using these arts education to promote success, and a group of preschoolers from a nearby school not implanting these head-start techniques. By the end of the year, it was found that, as hypothesized, the children engaging in the Kaleidoscope arts program showed greater year end receptive vocabulary compared to the children at the other preschool not engaging in the artistic curriculum. Despite the fact that the larger majority of participants came from varying ethic groups and backgrounds (i.e; 75% of the children were African American, 11% Latino, and 46% of participants were female), their mean years for their custodial parent was only 11.7 years, meaning the majority of these caregivers did not even graduate high school. Despite these backgrounds in both schools, the implementation of arts education played a significant role in the children’s development of language and other characteristics that would constitute their level of school readiness to take on the next steps in their academic career.
As the research shows, early exposure to the arts can bring huge benefits to children. Not only are they preparing for school, learning new things, and being able to have a creative outlet, they are developing lifelong skills that will help them in many areas of their lives. The importance of implementing arts education in early childhood is becoming a topic of interest in the field of psychology and in the examination of curriculum and our school systems in general. There are so many amazing things that art can do for children, and by allowing them to engage in these creative processes, they learn new skills and develop an appreciation for art that will continuously follow them throughout their lives. These skills will help them in their personal and professional lives, and then in years to come, they can pass these skills down to their own children and allow for the knowledge to expand. All it takes is a tiny spark to ignite a fire. If children are exposed to art at a young age, they learn to appreciate it and its value, and can continue to promote its importance to the next generation. Although the research examining the importance of arts education in early childhood is still expanding, more and more findings are pointing to genuine lifelong benefits and success in academics, social skills, and overall mental processing of the world we engage in each and every day.
- E.D. Brown, B. Benedett, M.E. Armistead Arts enrichment and school readiness for children at risk
- Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 25(1) (2010), pp. 112-124
- Kisida, B., Bowen, D. H., & Greene, J. P. (2018). Cultivating interest in art: Causal effects of arts exposure during early childhood. Early Childhood Research Quarterly,45, 197-203. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2017.12.003
- N. Rabkin, E.C. Hedberg Arts education in America: What the declines mean for arts participation (Research report #52)
- National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC (2011)
- Phillips, R. D., Gorton, R. L., Pinciotti, P., & Sachdev, A. (2010). Promising findings on preschoolers’ emergent literacy and school readiness in arts-integrated early childhood settings. Early Childhood Education Journal, 38(2), 111–122. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-010-0397-x
- Scripp, L. (2007). The Conservatory Lab Charter School—NEC Research Center ‘Learning Through Music’ Partnership (1999–2003). Journal for Music-inEducation, 1, 202–223.
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