In middle school, one of my favorite classes was my 7th grade art class. I didn’t excel at sketching, drawing or painting (and I still don’t), but I enjoyed the freedom of the class. I felt free to creatively express myself, tinker with ideas and have fun designing pieces without the burden of worrying if what I created fit into a “right” or “wrong” category. I became more enthusiastic about school, and my energy spilled over into my academic coursework. After reviewing the research surrounding the benefits of the arts, I found that my arts experience wasn’t unique. Research shows that the arts have the ability to positively influence a youth’s academic, social and emotional development—promoting creativity, fostering academic engagement and encouraging academic gains.
In “Arts Enrichment in Afterschool,” the second in our latest series of issue briefs in partnership with the MetLife Foundation, we discuss the benefits the arts brings to children’s lives and the importance of preserving the time and space for arts education both in school and out of school. However, as a greater emphasis is placed on English Language Arts and math test scores, and schools face budget cuts at the federal, state and local levels, providing a robust and comprehensive arts education during the school day becomes increasingly challenging.
Released this week at the Arts Education Partnership’s Fall 2012 National Forum in Chattanooga, TN, this issue brief highlights the ways in which afterschool programs are perfectly situated to bolster the efforts of schools; helping students build on the music, art, dance and theater lessons learned during the school day, teaching them new art forms that may not be available at their schools and deepening their connection to the art world.
Every child deserves the opportunity to take advantage of all the arts have to offer. And across the country, afterschool programs are finding new and exciting ways to bring the arts to children in their communities, working with school arts and music educators to augment students’ access and exposure to the variety of ways the arts can influence their lives and strengthening students’ relationships with the arts—supporting overall student success.