Why Do Kids Need The Arts?

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The power of imagination is unleashed when young people express themselves through the arts. Whether its music, dance, theater, pottery or painting, participating in the arts builds valuable skills, self-awareness and self-confidence, improves clarity and creativity in communication, fosters teamwork and persistence, inspires greater civic engagement, builds empathy for others … and provides a capacity for delight that can last a lifetime!

Not only are arts programs – both in and out of school – fun and rewarding, they are also academically and emotionally enriching. Numerous studies have shown that students participating in arts programs typically show an increase in test scores and a decrease in drop-out rates. The arts help close the “achievement gap” regardless of socio-economic status.

It has been exciting for us here at North State Parent magazine to see admirable growth in the number of locally available arts programs in recent years. A greater number of opportunities for our children and community to be enriched by the arts is an invaluable benefit.

We asked some local arts instructors to share their thoughts on the impact that hands-on arts experiences can have on youth.

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Sonya Kennedy, owner of California Dance Company, located in Anderson and Redding, talks about dance:

Ballet is an art form that is filled with tradition and legacy. Part of that legacy is the connection of generations. All young dancers grow up idolizing older, more experienced dancers.

The Moscow Ballet recently gave local students the amazing opportunity to train and perform with world-class dancers. Students worked one-on-one with Mariia, Moscow Ballet’s Prima Ballerina, during auditions and rehearsals. Many were awe-struck by Mariia and loved working with her.

At California Dance Company we believe in offering many experiences to our dancers so they can grow and be inspired. One of the biggest benefits from a teacher’s standpoint is seeing how excited and inspired our students become after watching amazing dancers rehearse and perform. Working up close and personal with the Moscow Ballet’s professional dancers has made an impact on many young hopeful ballerinas that will last for years to come!

Dance is such a healing art form; we are so thankful we are able to offer these opportunities to our dancers.

art-0116-be-arts3Hayley Horn, owner of Kinetics Academy of Dance in Chico, talks about dance:

In a world where young children face ever-increasing academic pressures, the arts, such as music and dance, provide the perfect counterpoint. The very study of the arts has been shown to improve brain function. Spending time each week in a joyful and focused dance environment helps children develop good social skills, an ability to work within a structured setting, and fosters listening and ability to follow directions and fosters the ability to listen and follow directions.

Children are natural movers – we learn to move well before we learn to talk! I believe in using that natural movement as a springboard for facilitating a love of dance that can carry a child through their entire life. In my classes, I use stories, props and costumes to encourage a joy in dance that comes from imagination and creativity.

One of our favorite events at the studio is our Daddy-Daughter Valentine Tea Party, this year held on February 13, 2016. It is a beautiful time for our little dancers, ages 3-6 years, to share the magic and love of dance with their daddies. We make crafts, have a fancy tea party and even get our daddies to dance with us! Dance was always a part of my life growing up – in fact, I host this party with my very own dancing dad!

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Karen Atkinson, ceramics teacher at Corning High talks about the importance of ceramics in school curricula.

Students like to work with clay for many reasons. They might create an artifact to express or investigate an emotional experience or memory, perhaps as an appreciation of nature or to learn about or express something by “making it visible.” 

Then there is the fun aspect of just enjoying the process of doing it! There are many studies that herald the support that the arts give to literacy improvement in the core classes. These studies are valuable justifications to include art as an integral part of a curriculum. A rewarding aspect of my job is the personal reflection students share regarding why ceramics is valuable to them in their daily educational practice – in and of itself: 

What is satisfying about working with clay?

  • “It’s satisfying to be able to construct my ideas into actual things.”
  • “I like just being able to play with clay.”
  • “It’s not the way you see it being formed but the way you feel about it, the moment of experience as you’re building…”
  • “I like learning the skills necessary to put things together successfully.”
  • Students learn patience and to stick with the project even though it can be challenging:
  • “Working with clay can be stressful when you have to start over, yet the project is usually better the second (or third) time.”
  • “Ceramics takes my mind off of other stressful situations.”
  • “Teachers can teach you the basics, but then you have to go on your own and make your own meaning … it’s art.”

art-0116-be-arts5Wendy James, owner of Mt. Shasta Children’s Theater talks about musical theater:

When Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts in favor of the war effort, he is said to have replied, “Then what are we fighting for?”

Story after story has been told of the benefits of arts education and its influence on the development of confident, creative young people. As a dance, voice and theatre teacher, I have the opportunity to instruct and encourage student’s creativity in the wonderful multi-faceted art form of musical theatre.

Often times, kids have to choose what activity to participate in after school and on weekends. Their schedules are so busy it’s challenging for parents to get them everywhere they would like to be. Musical theatre offers a diversified theatrical and performance experience and in addition to singing, dancing and acting, students often learn set design, construction, costuming, music theory and improvisation.

Musical theater gives students an opportunity to be someone besides themselves, acting out and communicating their feelings through a character. They form a non-competitive team, a family, a group of friends who gather together to tell a story loud and proud. It’s wonderful. I am honored to be the director of Mt Shasta Children’s Theatre and the owner of Shasta Studios School of Theatrical Dance in the city of Mt Shasta.

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Brian Birkes of Sky River Music in Red Bluff, CA, talks about how to encourage musicality in your child:

It’s pretty easy. Keep percussion instruments (bongos, shakers, tambourines) around the house and encourage your toddler to play along with whatever music you have. A piano or electric keyboard is always great to have around too. 

No matter what your personal taste in music, expose your children to all forms of music:  The Beatles, Louis Armstrong, Bach, Beethoven, Hank Williams. And don’t forget some newer artists. Whatever music they gravitate to, encourage it! Then, at age 7 or so, lessons. Let them choose the instrument.

When I was a kid our house was full of music. Dad played guitar and sang folk songs. Mom played records for us: classical, show tunes, blues and folk. My older brothers played The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Allman Brothers and so much more. It was awesome! All that music helped shape my musicianship and continues to do so.

Just make sure that music is on at your house more than television or video games!

About Laura Bradley

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