Friday, September 16, 2011

Ways to Instill the Arts in Your Child's Life

Throughout the week, we have been focusing on what educators and school leaders can do to ensure students receive an arts education. Today, we are going to focus on how parents can instill an arts rich environment in their child's life.

Dance to Learn Small Group Discussion, Photo by Amy Miller

The American for the Arts lists 10 simple ways to go about doing this.

1. "Enjoy the arts together. Sing, play music, read a book, dance, or draw with your child at home."

2. "Encourage your child to participate in the arts and celebrate their participation in or out of school."

3. "Explore your community’s library and read 'the classics' together—from Mother Goose to Walt Whitman."

4. "Read your local newspaper to find out about attending local arts events like museum exhibits, local plays, festivals, or outdoor concerts."

5. "Tell your child’s teacher, principal, and school leadership that the arts are vital to your child’s success and an important part of a quality education. Find out if your school has sufficient resources for arts education, including qualified teachers and materials. If not, offer to help."

6. "Contact your local arts organizations to inquire about the arts education programs they offer either during school hours or after school. Volunteer to donate time, supplies, or help with their advocacy efforts and connect these services to your child’s school."

7. "Attend a school board or PTA meeting and voice your support for the arts to show them you care and make sure the arts are adequately funded as part of the core curriculum in the school budget."

8. "Explore your child’s dream to sing, to dance, to draw, to act—and encourage them to become the best they can be through the arts."

9. "Be an arts supporter! Contact your elected officials—lawmakers and school board members—to ask them for more arts education funding from the local, state, and federal levels."

10. Sign up to become an activist on the Americans for the Arts website, just a click away!

To read this list in its entirety, click here.

National Arts in Education Week may be coming to a close, but that doesn't mean that your efforts in promoting and using arts education tools has to stop!

Keep educating yourself on how you can do your part in promoting arts education. There are numerous websites and books out there that will give you the tools and evidence you need to further arts education. Check out such resources as the Arts Education Partnership website, ARTSblog, and our Ordway Education News page to find out about grants, ways in which you can instill an arts education in your students, and etc.

Also, October is fast approaching, which is National Arts and Humanities Month. Get a head start on ways in which you can celebrate the arts during this month. American for the Arts has posted 101 things you can do to promote National Arts and Humanities Month and all that it represents.

We want to hear from you!
How are you going to celebrate National Arts and Humanities Month?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Create an Arts-Rich Learning Environment

During National Arts In Education Week, we have been discussing ways in which one can promote arts education, the benefits to arts education, and also how to make sure students are getting a chance to be hands-on with their skill development in the arts. Today, we have decided to share with you some tips on how you can create an arts-rich learning environment in your very own school.

Students Participating in the Dance to Learn Program, Photo by: Becca Barniskis

What School Leaders Can Do To Increase Arts Education is a great booklet made by the Arts Education Partnership that shows how school leaders can increase arts education in their schools. This is particularly important in our current environment of shrinking school budgets, which unfortunately can result in cuts to the school's arts department.

From this booklet, we are focusing on its section, "Create an Arts-Rich Learning Environment." Here's 5 easy steps that you and your school can do to provide an arts integrated education for your students.

1. Bring the arts into daily classroom instruction.

"As Stephen Noonan, Principal of the High School of Arts, Imagination and Inquiry in New York City puts it, 'We don’t limit student experiences with art to one class or one unit; rather
we find authentic ways to integrate the arts across the curriculum.' But in an already jam-packed day, some teachers might resist integrating arts learning experiences if doing so seems like an 'add-on.' Peg Winkelman, a teacher educator at California State University, East Bay, suggests principals 'eliminate the idea that it is difficult [to integrate the arts.] It may be
there are one or two teachers who already use the arts as part of their instructional practices.' Use their expertise to spark interest among other educators."

2. Provide arts-based professional development.

"Key to effective, high quality professional development is that it should be intensive,
on-going, and aligned with state and district curriculum requirements. At some schools, the arts teachers serve as the school 'lead' in providing or coordinating professional development for classroom teachers. At others, professional development support comes from outside the school, either from the school district or an arts or cultural organization. At Carnation Elementary School, Principal Doug Poage used a combination of both: 'We were able to get a teacher professional development grant from the state for two years. Now, 80% of teachers are trained in using the arts. We created our replica program so that now we train our teachers using our own staff. We also use an artist in our own community, which helps the local community as well as our school.'"

3. Support a school-wide arts learning community.

"Professional development alone doesn’t provide sufficient support for creating a school-wide
arts learning community that engages the entire staff—classroom teachers, specialist teachers, administrators, and school leaders. School principals can help build staff capacity by reinforcing the commitment to the arts through a school-wide arts theme, the sharing of arts-related books and articles and incorporating the topic into staff meetings."

4. Incorporate the arts into staffing and hiring decisions.

"Develop job descriptions for new hires that let candidates know arts coursework or experience using the arts in teaching is an expectation. Then, follow it up by asking arts-related questions in job interviews with prospective teachers. School principals also can reinforce the emphasis on using the arts in teaching by making it a part of classroom observations, teacher discussions and the evaluation process."

5. Involve the local arts community.

"Reaching beyond the school walls to arts and cultural organizations can produce many lasting benefits. Teaching artists—professional artists from cultural institutions or from the community—can play a key role in providing workshops, consultations, teaching demonstrations, assessment techniques and assistance in the development of curricular materials. Forming partnerships with the local arts community can help infuse the school with rich, comprehensive programs—not simply add-on experiences that can come and go with the availability of resources."

This article taken from What School Leaders Can Do To Increase Arts Education, Washington, D.C., May 2011.

To read the entire booklet, click here. You can also visit the AEP website at for references and additional resources.

We want to hear from you!
How will you create an arts-rich learning environment in your school?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Give Students the Freedom to be Creative, Collaborative, and Innovative

Throughout Arts in Education Week, we, as arts advocates, set out to show the benefits that the arts can bring to a student's growth and development, which includes developing skills in "creativity, collaboration, and innovation." However, it is important to ensure that we are giving students the freedom to actually use these skills we claim to nurture through the arts.

As Mark Slavkin, Vice President for Education at the Music Center: Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, discusses this in his article, "Helping Students Find Their Own Voices in the Arts."

"We need to look at our own practice and make sure we are consistently cultivating the benefits we claim for arts education. Are we giving kids license to be truly creative?

For example, in the performing arts, how often are students provided opportunities to compose original music or choreograph a new dance piece? How often are students encouraged to pursue their own ideas in the arts, as opposed to following the very explicit rules and directions from the teacher?

Since the rewards system for arts teachers gives enormous weight to the final show/performance, it is no surprise to see teachers focus their limited hours with students on rehearsing for the coming show or festival. Such events help garner support from parents and principals and serve as a source of pride for the school community.

The hard work, discipline, and teamwork on display are often quite impressive. But what about our claims concerning creativity and innovation? When do the band kids get to explore their own interests and ideas in music? Of course, the same pressures and patterns are also evident in the dance studio or theater stage. Contrary to our rhetoric, I worry we may be cultivating more “rule followers” in the arts classroom.

Clearly, there is an important part of arts education that involves honing basic technique and learning the work of great masters in each discipline.

I am simply suggesting we make more space for students to explore and find their own voice in the arts. If we want to cultivate true artists, and not mere technicians, we need to start somewhere."

We need to give students the chance to put the skills we set out to develop through the arts to use. This can be done by putting more focus on the actual creating and collaborative process of art, rather than just the final piece or performance. Just something to ponder during National Arts in Education Week.

If you want to read Slavkin's entire article, click here to read it on the Arts Education Network, a program of American for the Arts, blog.

We want to hear from you!
In what ways do you cultivate creativity, collaboration, and innovation in your classroom?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ways You Can Support Arts Education

What better way to celebrate National Arts In Education week than with some tips on how you can help promote arts education. Whether you're an educator, parent, student, or concerned citizen, these tips will give you the tools you need to get out there and support the arts for future generations.

Kristen Engebretsen from Arts Education Network, a program of American for the Arts, has 10 ways in which you can get involved. Here's what she suggests:

10. Volunteer your time, resources, skills: Many schools would appreciate your time as a chaperone, your skill as a teaching artist, or your donations of money, costumes, rehearsal space, etc.

9. Know the facts: Stay on top of current arts education research, trends, and news articles. Start with Reinvesting in Arts Education, which summarizes research on the topic. Use this data in your messaging when you speak to elected officials or school leaders.

8. Get involved politically: Tell your elected officials why arts education is important. Ask your members of Congress to keep the arts listed as a core subject during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

7. Pack a one, two punch: Your message to elected officials and school leaders should contain both a warm and fuzzy anecdote AND hard hitting data. Practice your message. Keep it brief. Know who your audience is, and tailor your message to them.

6. Increase visibility of the issue: Host a community conversation or speaker series on the topic, coordinate community fundraisers, write an Op-Ed piece for your local paper, screen a documentary about arts education, and include the arts in school communications (newspapers, newsletters, displays, letters to parents, etc.).

5. Assess your school/community strengths and gaps: First assess your needs: No fourth graders receive music instruction, no dance is offered, high school theater has been cut in half, etc. Then, take stock of your resources: parent volunteers, afterschool programs, teachers with talents or degrees in the arts, schools with unused stages in the cafeteria, nearby museums or cultural institutions, etc. Now, utilize your assets to strategically address your needs.

4. Forge partnerships: With 93% of Americans agreeing that arts education is important, you are likely to find allies. Create a community team to come up with a plan for arts education based on the above strengths/gaps assessment. Include business leaders, teachers, principals, school board members, superintendents, parents, students, arts organizations, etc. See how Kristen Engebretsen the TakePART program benefits students and families across an entire region—beyond what can be accomplished within individual schools.

3. Talk to school leaders: Testify at school board meetings. Request meetings with superintendents and/or principals. Use these brochures to start conversations: What School Leaders Can Do to Increase Arts Education by the Arts Education Partnership and My Child, the Arts, and Learning by the Center for Arts Education.

2. Measure your school district’s infrastructure: Arts education in a school district needs a sound infrastructure and can be measured by these 5 indicators:
1) an arts education policy adopted by the school board
2) a plan for arts education
3) 5 percent of the general budget to implement the plan
4) a district level arts coordinator to oversee, implement, and evaluate the plan
5) a student to art teacher ratio no higher than 400 to 1
Advocate for these five things. Use these indicators as goals. Measure progress by these goals. Thanks to Arts for All, for their extensive, research-based, ground-breaking work on this front, and for shaping how I think about supporting arts education.

1. Be the solution: As you approach school leaders with your message in support of arts education, don’t just insist that principals offer arts education overnight. School leaders are facing tough situations. Offer solutions that help solve these problems. Is the principal having an attendance issue at her school? Show her research that says that the arts can be her solution because they increase student engagement. Offer concrete ways that the arts can be a tool in improving overall education.

** This article originally appeared on ARTSblog on August 26, 2011. To see original article click here.

We want to hear from you!
How will you promote the arts in education?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy Arts In Education Week!

To commemorate the second annual National Arts in Education Week, we will be posting a variety of information on arts education; including evidence showing the benefits of an arts integrated education as well as ways in which you can help promote the arts in your own school or educational group.

Here are a couple of studies that have proven how important the arts are in a student's education:

The Center for Arts Education published a report in 2009 that suggests arts education may improve graduation rates.

"Taking a look at the role of arts education in New York public schools, this report found that schools with the lowest access also had the highest dropout rates. Conversely, those with the highest graduation rates also had the greatest access to arts education and resources. While there are undoubtedly a number of other factors that play into graduation rates, the research in this study and others like it (most notably The Role of the Fine and Performing Arts in High School Dropout Prevention, which you can read here) has found that many at-risk students cite participation in the arts as their reason for staying. Participation in these activities has a quantifiable impact on levels of delinquency, truancy and academic performance" (

A 2011 study called "Reinvesting in Arts Education" found that integrating arts with other subjects can help raise achievement levels.

"Arts education may not just help raise test scores, but also the learning process itself, as a recent study revealed. This report on the Maryland school system found that skills learned in the visual arts could help improve reading and the counterparts fostered in playing an instrument could be applied to math. Researchers and school officials believe that arts education can be a valuable education reform tool, and classroom integration of creative opportunities could be key to motivating students and improving standardized test scores" (

To see other studies showing the benefits of an arts education visit:

We want to hear from you!
Tell us about a time in which you have witnessed the benefits of an arts integrated education.