Inspired by Elf Jr.

Watching our students perform Elf Jr. last week was exciting and inspirational.  Some of the students who were performing are outgoing and confident, it isn’t much of a surprise that they are excelling in the theatre.  However, seeing other students who are usually quiet, lacking self-confidence, or struggling academically get on stage and reveal a completely different side of themselves is a great reminder that there’s more to our students than what we see in the classroom!  

I often joke that I grew up in a gym.  If I wasn’t playing sports, I was watching, reffing, or coaching.  My life revolved around sports for many of my most formative years.  While I learned a lot of important life lessons from my experiences in sports and have no regrets about how I grew up, I would change one thing if I could go back in time.  I would get involved in the Arts, heavily involved. I think I would have a hard time convincing my young self to listen to that advice but knowing everything I know now, I’d work very hard to find a way to talk myself into it!

Providing our students with opportunities to think critically, solve problems creatively, and find success in areas beyond the classroom, are just some of the many benefits of Arts education, no matter where or when we provide it.  Unfortunately, Arts education is often infrequent or relegated to after school times due to the school-day focus on “core” academic classes. That’s not to say that the Arts and core classes are in competition with each other, in fact it should really be the opposite and they should be working together as much as possible.  In addition to the aforementioned benefits, there’s lots of research that shows that students involved in the Arts have more success in their core academic areas than students who aren’t. The importance of the Arts can’t be overlooked!

If you didn’t get a chance to see Elf Jr. this past weekend I think you’ll get a chance this week when our students see it.  While you’re watching, let yourself be inspired by our young thespians and keep in mind how important the Arts can be for our students.  Then, at your next collaborative time, take a few minutes to talk with your team about how you/we can incorporate more Arts into our programs – it will benefit our students in all areas.

Enjoy the show!!

Fine Arts Rock!

Coming on the heels of an awesome Fine Arts Festival I couldn’t help but writing about all the amazing benefits of including the Arts in a curriculum.  Over the years Arts programs have ebbed and flowed as budgets and priorities have shifted.  I’m very happy and proud to be part of a school that gives the Arts equal footing with all the other subjects we offer.  We require our students to take music up through 8th grade and for middle school and high school students we offer Drama, Visual Arts, Graphic Design, and coming next year, Dance.  The range of opportunities in the Arts for a school of our size is beyond impressive and it couldn’t be better for our students!

There is a lot of research that supports the fact that we’re not only giving our students chances to explore their interests in the Arts but we’re also giving them a leg up in other academic classes.  One meta-analysis of more than 60 different studies shows that students who work in the Arts “do a better job of mastering reading, writing and math than those who focus solely on academics.”  While the Arts are not a panacea, the connections and benefits of being exposed to the Arts shouldn’t be doubted.  Improved social-emotional skills from Drama, cognitive improvements from music, improved communication and creativity from Dance, and organization and reasoning skills from Visual Arts are just a few of the many benefits of an Arts curriculum.  While I’m confident that our students would be successful without the Arts, there is no doubt in my mind that because of our robust Arts program our students are even more well prepared for the rigors of life beyond our walls!  

Our Middle School teachers, along with a number of Elementary, High School, and community members have stepped up to ensure that the Fine Arts Festival was a HUGE success.  Our Middle School students will, no doubt, benefit from the Arts program at Academia Cotopaxi but this Fine Arts Festival did a brilliant job of bringing the entire community together around the Arts.  Splitting my time between the High School and Middle School I often notice the fact that our students lose touch with the Arts as they continue into High School.  Considering that it’s been found that “Arts students” consistently outscore “non-Arts students” on the SAT in study after study, perhaps reconsidering how we make the Arts available to our High School students is worth some time and effort.  While the correlation is undeniable and we can’t be sure of causation, the facts should make us stop and think!  Making sure that all of our students enjoy the benefits of such an amazing program for as long as possible will be crucial to their continued success.

Beyond the classroom, the benefits of an Arts program continue to be seen.  Decreased rates of disciplinary action, higher attendance rates, and increased graduation rates were recorded in this extensive study done in the United States.  Walking around during our Fine Arts Festival and enjoying all of the amazing workshops and practice sessions, it is clear that our students are gaining even more from this experience than could have been imagined.  From “The Science of Art” to “Tapestry” and “Mosaic” workshops, our students have taken pride in the work they’ve accomplished during their exploratory sessions.  Capturing the curiosity that lies within all of our students is essential to their success, there is no doubt in my mind that the Fine Arts Festival has done exactly that!  

A HUGE thank you goes to the Arts department for organizing such a tremendous Fine Arts Festival.  I’ve been involved in similar events over the last six years and I can say, without a doubt, that this has easily been the most well coordinated, engaging, and successful Fine Arts Festival that I’ve ever seen!

Thank you again to the Arts Team!!!!