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The Arts and the Whole Child

The arts and the whole child
The arts and the whole child

Critics, mathematicians, scientists and busybodies want to classify everything, marking the boundaries and limits... In art, there is room for all possibilities. -- Pablo Picasso

Howard Gardner, the American psychologist who created the Theory of Multiple Intelligence, identified seven types of intelligence in the human which impact the way students learn and where they excel.

• verbal/linguistic;
• logic/mathematic;
• musical;
• corporal/kinesthetic;
• visual/spatial; interpersonal;
• intrapersonal
• naturalist intelligence & existential intelligence

Some may be strong in certain areas and weak in others, but all of the types of intelligence use either the right (creative) or left side (analytical) of the brain. Ultimately, it would be nice to have to have the best of both, "our feet in the ground and our head in heavens” so to speak.

If you are unfamiliar with hemisphericity research, it can basically be categorized in the following manner:

Left Brain | Right Brain
Reality-based | Imaginative
Symbolic | Geometric
Mimetic | Risk-taking
Measuring | Spatial relations
Dexterity of the human right hand | Inventive
Planning | Concrete
Pattern perception | Perception of shapes and sizes
Conscious, externally-focused attention | Process ideas simultaneously
Looking at differences and distinctions | Sees relationships
Analytical | Synthesizing
Detail-orientation | Looks at the "big picture"
Enjoys observing | Sees more than one way of looking at things
Organizing information | Abstraction of qualities
Communicative | Gestural

By using more the left hemisphere, considered as rational, we do leave out the possibility of taking advantage of the benefits brought by the right hemisphere, such as creative imagination, serenity, global view, capacity of synthesis and ease of memorization, among others; however, it need not be a choice but rather an “integration.” How can this be achieved, you may ask?
By teaching the arts to students at all grade levels.

Participating actively in any of the arts such as dance, drama, drawing, etc…, demands complete participation. They engage bodily, intellectual, analytical and emotional capacities. The act of perception itself requires your whole brain.

The arts are a critical part of educating the whole child. Leaving the arts to artists is like leaving exercise to athletes. Everyone can do it, and everyone should do it.

The results of a 2008 study by Robert Epstein, PhD, a psychology researcher, founder, and director emeritus of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, and senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology demonstrated that by developing four core areas—capturing new ideas, engaging in challenging tasks, broadening knowledge, and interacting with stimulating people and places—people can enhance their brain’s ability to innovate. Seventy-four city employees in Orange County, California, participated in creativity training consisting of exercises that focused on these four proficiencies. Eight months after the training, the employees increased their rate of new idea generation by 55%, brought in more than $600,000 in new revenue, and saved about $3.5 million through innovative cost reductions (fastcompany).

The last few years have seen a drastic cut in the arts in efforts to balance school budgets. Programs like dance, art, music, and drama have experienced dramatic cut-backs that have decimated countless schools throughout the country. If we want our children to develop their whole brain and be able to think both critically and creatively, we must support the arts and fight to keep them in our schools. These skills must work in tandem to create individuals who can think outside the box and be creative problem solvers. These are the skills required in the ever changing and increasingly challenging job market as well as the key to a well adjusted, balanced individual.

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