Why is it important not to neglect the following content areas: art, music, and play when educating children?
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This is a great question. When educating children, we need to think about the totality of a child. We want children to grow up to their fullest potential and thrive as citizens. For this to happen, we cannot think of education as only subjects like Math, Science and English. The arts, music and even playing are essential in the development of a child. As for reasons, let me list three.
First, arts and music are essential in education, because it develops the creative areas of a child. This creativity is central to intellectual development. Later on in life, this creativity can be the impetus for great innovations.
Second, play is important, because it allows children to develop socially. In elite private schools in New York, play dates are central in determining a child's readiness for school. The social ramification later in life are also great.
Third, music allows a child's brain to develop maximally. For instance, playing piano develops the child's left and right side of the brain.
Increased attention has been placed on the importance of play in the educational development of children. Focus on educational systems of some countries such as Finland, where children only begin formal schooling at the age of 7 and have constructive play sessions beforehand, has suggested the importance of play for the early development of children. The high levels of educational attainment in Finland has made their model one that many other countries have looked towards.
Many students who are not successful in traditional academic subjects, find great success in the arts. As teachers, we often strive to find ways to engage students in learning, to increase their self-awareness, and to help them develop as human beings. All forms of music and art do just this.
The concept of play is incredibly interesting. I teach high school students and play is certainly not an accepted part of the curriculum. However, I think the traditional definition of "play" could be modified to fit the social setting of high school and could then be used in such a way to prepare students to the social expectation and norms of life after high school (college, military, career, etc). I'm very interested to read other comments about the potential use of "play" for secondary students.
You've got some great examples in previous posts. Because I'm a violinist, I'll expand on #2's comment about playing the piano activating both sides of a child's brain. String instruments take that one step further, requiring the two hands of the musician to perform two completely different functions and movements when playing. The fingers of the left hand are involved in pressing the strings down to the fingerboard to change the length of the vibrations, thus changing the pitch of the note being played when the right hand draws the bow across the string. Very high level of coordination and muscle control required!
Art and music must be included (and I exclude crafts from art) because, aside from their intrinsic values, the serious-minded study of art and music adds to the expansiveness, the breadth, of cognitive development. Music and, in some regards, art are based on mathematics. Studies done in the 1990s show that those who study music are more proficient with maths than those who haven't. Since art concepts, like perspective and proportional color mixing, are similarly based in maths, the same holds true, while the study of art also increases powers of observation (as through shades, hues and tones of colors, for example) and analysis.
I think the posts have been excellent in explaining the need for including these areas in the education process.
Something else that should be considered is the positive effect knowledge in the arts and music has on the individual's capacity for enjoyment. A happy person is usually a productive and good person. I believe that teaching music and art augments the student's ability to enjoy them.
I am concerned that, without a music and art curriculum, the student's exposure to these area will be limited to that which is popular within her peer group. Teachers should expand students' horizons whenever possible.
I agree with all the posts already made. Art, music, and play can also be means of healthy socialization during school and afterwards. People who are involved in (or even just interested in) these kinds of activities have talents and interests that can last a lifetime, bringing them into meaningful contact with others who share such talents and interests. Much of what we talk about with friends throughout life involves the arts -- especially such arts as filmmaking, writing, and music-making. Almost all of us have favorite writers, directors, actors, novels, etc., and they not only enrich our loves by themselves but also through shared enthusiasms.
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