The Arts – enhancing science discovery and understanding

Art class or crafting with kids is an activity that can fill up some free time and a time to work on fine motor skills in disguise, but it can be much more.

For years educators have known the benefits of teaching art and how the arts enhance cognitive development.

Art class or crafting with kids can be an activity to fill up some free time and possibly work on fine motor skills in disguise, but it also does much more, especially when crafting, or doing art with toddlers or teens. Areas such as science or science in art, culture, and traditions of crafts that are handed down from generation to generation are great examples. These are all interesting topics, but today Michigan State University Extension will focus on cognitive development and art.

“The arts” is a commonly used term while “art” tends to be much more difficult to pin down. The Oxford dictionary gives the following definitions:

  1. Art: The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
  2. The arts: The various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature and dance

Keeping these broad definitions in mind, let’s think back to our own childhoods and the sense of accomplishment we got when we finished an art or craft project, when we were able to sculpt what we wanted, paint with the colors we chose, or even got to pick the next song in music class. I still remember the tie dyed shirts and carving sculptures from a bar of soap in grade school. The highlight of music and band was performing at the winter and spring concerts. To put on a play for parents and peers was always fun. Children love to perform for their parents, often waving and smiling for that positive feedback only a parent or loved one can provide.

When a child creates a picture, sculpture, craft or other visual art it increases a child’s self-esteem when it is hung on the refrigerator. Let kids pick out a special magnet for their special creations. Being able to display their work is one of the biggest compliments a child can receive. Clapping at silly home performances is another great way to build a child’s confidence.

There have been countless studies to prove art is a big part of cognitive development as well. Recent research emphasis has been on art and how it affects achievement in science. The educational community is moving from STEM which is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math to STEAM, science, technology, engineering, art and math.

When asked if schools should keep art, music and all the other “non” academic subjects, MSU Extension suggests your answer be yes. Creativity is how discoveries are made. Where would science be without new discoveries?

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