The Arts are an essential learning area for children because of the far-reaching cognitive benefits that responding to and making art provide for students and the benefits of children being able express and communicate themselves.
Neuroscience & Music
The Arts are an essential part of children’s education because of their multifaceted nature they tap into different aspects of learning. For example, listening to music involves the co-ordination of number of different brain regions, which separately analyse important information such as tone, pitch, tempo and even emotional resonance (Koelsch, 2011). While we perceive this experience as a unified whole, we are able to examine the separate aspects, such a pitch, tempo and timbre even without being formally taught. However, when we are taught to think of them separately, the importance of music’s structure is highlighted, which is something that can be built upon and developed by teachers (Collins, 2013, p. 223)
As Anita Collins (TED-Ed, 2014) presents in the above TED-ED presentation, responding to music activates particular regions of the brain, but only when we make music do we tap into even more regions of the brain which enhances connection to emotion, benefits memory, neural communication, planning, fine motor skills, transferable skills and helps us represent memories in different ways. This brain activity and the active connection between these different brain regions allows children to build up rich multimodal representations of abstract, perceptual and emotional concepts (Aranda & Tytler, 2017).
Expressive and Communicative Benefits
Neuroscience research highlights the cognitive benefits of The Arts, but I believe equally important are the benefits derived from expressing and communicating children’s ideas, that students should be ‘confident and creative individuals’ (MCEETYA, 2008, p 8), and I believe that my confidence in various aspects of my life (see Question 3 below) comes from an engagement with The Arts.
Reflection: The Arts should be a fundamental part of students’ education, not because of the instrumental benefits (Dinham, 2013a, p. 12) it can provide students when learning mathematic and reading, how it can benefit low-SES children’s academic performance or how it positively influences other domains (Fiske, 1999, p. viii). But because it allows students to build on the intrinsic benefits (Dinham, 2013a, p. 12), to reflect on their own lives, it allows them to connect to unknown cultures and unknown aspects of themselves, become immersed in satisfying experiences like Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of flow (TED, 2004), and express themselves in ways that words might not be able to.