fun through art

The arts make learning fun! They also enhance learning by stimulating the brain. In the article, “Lighting up the Mind: Why the Arts are Important to Learning,” (Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, Spring 2008), MRI brain scan images show that both sides of the brain lit up with hot spots when people answered questions that required them to use insight and deductive reasoning. When those same people were recalling facts from a story, only the left hemisphere lit up.

This tells us the brain is more engaged when students are able to be creative and use multiple skills at once. More neurons are fired, new pathways are formed, and the information being taught goes in deeper. This means students remember what they learned.

This is different than much of what students do in school: memorize facts, spew them out for a test, and then it all goes right out of their head. They don’t remember these facts the next week, never mind the next year when their new teacher is trying to build on their prior knowledge. I’ve taught in the public schools, and teachers complain that students don’t recall basic facts and concepts that they are supposed to know from the previous year. They end up having to re-teach a lot of material.

Learning by acquiring information and organizing facts using linear and sequential thinking has been the norm. But our times are changing fast. The conceptual age is upon us. Susana Brown, who runs the MACC’s Arts in Education program, which since 1995, has been extending arts integration into the classroom, wrote in The Maui News (March 1, 2010) about how our world is moving toward a workplace where our kids will need to have different skills than in the past. These include creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and being able to work cooperatively. The jobs of the future will require employees to be inventive, empathetic, and big-picture thinkers. This means students have to learn more than WHAT to think, but HOW to think. Today’s employers are looking for people who can combine unrelated ideas into something new, detect patterns and opportunities, and be able to write well.

These skills are nurtured through activities like Readers’ Theater, writing songs about characters in books, creating newscasts about a scene from history, and singing songs to learn Math facts. Students use critical thinking and problem solving skills, plus they benefit from the social interaction. Their imagination and creativity is being sparked. They are thinking both intuitively and analytically. They are learning to make inferences and connect ideas. Their whole brain and their whole being are being activated.

When you are doing homework with your child, bring in any kind of creative, hands-on task. Have them draw what they are reading. Role-play with them. Put soft music on in the background. Make it a game whenever possible. Allow yourself and them to be silly and think outside the box. The bottom line is, if they (and their whole brain) are engaged and enjoying the process, then they will be motivated and inspired to work harder. Plus they will be more likely to retain the information!

Here on Maui, Haleakala Waldorf School, Montessori Hale O Keiki, ROOTS and Montessori School of Maui have a long history of success using the arts and a hands-on approach. Their founders knew the importance of incorporating creativity to teach the whole child. Arts & Academics Tutoring also offers arts-integrated lessons for keiki who need extra help outside of the classroom, as well as lessons for home school families. To find out more about Arts & Academics Tutoring please check out Making it FUN to learn again!

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