When thinking of the arts in education, most people will think back to their elementary school music class. Maybe they will picture a teacher playing the guitar or piano alongside a group of singing children, or an art teacher helping them sculpt a clay bowl or pot. While the arts have historically been present in education, they have notoriously been separated from other subjects. Today, the arts have evolved – they are no longer removed from learning, and are often seen as the core basics of education.
Art and Expression
With the nearly identical components shared by language and art, it is easy to wonder if they developed naturally parallel to each other. After all, language and art were two of the first developments of early civilizations. Throughout the ages, the two have mutually supported one another, with drawings often expressing what words could not. Additionally, history shows us over and over that the arts play an even greater role in capturing and promoting cultures. The songs, paintings, or poetry of a culture may represent the history of a people, while the colors in a sand sculpture might provide inspiration for the scientist who explores different combinations of molecules. The arts give rise to many voices – they can nurture a sense of belonging, or they can foster a sense of being apart. Through artwork, people can introduce themselves in a deep and meaningful way that might not emerge through verbal communication.
Art and Language Learning
Similarly, art can be applied to language learning. When learning a language, arts can be seen as a medium to work with different ideas and concepts. For example, poetry can help a student learning a second language to work towards making sense of his or her surroundings. Poetry provides a structure through which the student can apply their observations while actively working with a knowledge base and constructing understandings of nature through an art form. This way, the person can apply his or her observations in an imaginative manner, all while developing vocabulary, improving comprehension, and thinking in the new language. With art, learning foreign languages goes beyond grammar – students are also able to develop an appreciation for art and language as well as the rich culture and history the language holds.
Art and Culture
Art has the ability to cross many boundaries, including those that exist in communication. In a children’s classroom, for example, where many different nationalities are combined and different languages spoken, art can break the barriers of communication. For example, a student who has just arrived from Peru may not yet be able to verbally communicate with her English- speaking classmates, but she will be able to adequately express herself through drawings or dances. This way, the interaction not only allows the classmates to communicate, but also introduces them to the “feel” of a different culture.
As a language of expression, art gives rise to many voices and opens many paths to work with knowledge. When properly applied, the arts can play a vital role in stimulating creativity all while acting as a catalyst for learning, discovery, and achievement.