writing, creativity

Study Finds Arts Education Improves Graduation Rates

August 18, 2010 06:30 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
A report found that schools offering the most arts education had the highest graduation rates. How can parents and teachers stimulate and nurture creativity before high school?

The Importance of Arts Education

According to a 2009 New York Times article, the nonprofit organization Center for Arts Education released a report describing the influence of arts education on graduation rates in New York City high schools. The report, which considered data gathered over two years from more than 200 schools, found that schools offering arts programs had the highest rates of graduating students. In contrast, schools “in the bottom third” of graduation rates offered students “the least access” to arts programs and the “fewest resources” for arts education, such as opportunities for participation in performances.

Encouraging Student Creativity and Writing

There are various disciplines that could be considered creative or fall into the arts category. Writing tends to challenge teachers and students, but it can generate kids' enthusiasm for other types of creative expression.

The National Writing Project suggests “Ten Ideas That Get Kids Writing," in hopes of helping teachers “confront the challenge of motivating their students to to want to write” without focusing on “any single ‘correct’ way” to do so. Among the tips are ways to involve parents in “the literacy loop” and alternative methods of sparking students’ interest in writing, such as outdoor activities. For example, Chicago area teacher-consultant Judith Ruhana brought her students to a public sculpture garden, and then had students photograph the sculptures. She then asked students to write about the experience in poems, songs and short stories. 

Background: Tools and workshops that foster creativity

Author Cindy Ray developed the idea for her book “The Stapler Caper” when her eight-year-old son took her advice to “write one sentence per page about what he imagined was going on in the pictures” of a book they’d purchased. “The Stapler Caper” is a hardcover book and keepsake that “allows the child to be the author.” Pages are illustrated but left wordless, and made of sturdy paper on which children are encouraged to “use their imagination to create a story” of their own. “The most important aspect of this book was making sure it was fun and children would enjoy writing and expressing themselves,” Ray told the Wandering Educators Web site in an interview.

In an article on iParenting Canada, Shel Franco discusses the importance of process with art book author MaryAnn F. Kohl. "Art teaches preschoolers to believe in themselves, to try new things and to trust their own imaginations," she tells Franco. But it’s the process of making art, rather than the final result, that teaches such important lessons. Materials are also crucial and should be varied, with different types of paper, markers, paints and crayons. Parents should also remember that “it's quite all right if your child would rather scribble randomly on a piece of construction paper, and your input and direction is not really necessary.”

Parents and teachers can also turn to arts organizations like 826NYC, which has offices in New York, California, Chicago, Seattle, Michigan and Boston. The organization enlists the help of volunteers to “offer scores of free workshops designed to foster creativity and strengthen writing skills” and is dedicated to “helping teachers inspire their students to write.”

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