Arts Education and Brain development

Art and the Brain

Volume 5, Issue 3

Welcome to the ChildCare Education Institute March Newsletter!

This month, CCEI Discusses 'Art and the Brain'!

Most educators and parents agree that the arts should have a place in the early childhood curriculum. Parents rarely ask "Why?" when they hear that their children will spend time drawing, painting, sculpting, dancing, or playacting activities during the day in child care. After all, art is fun and engaging and children like it! Isn't that reason enough?
It should be. However, as early childhood curriculum standards continue to rise, educators and parents need to ensure that arts in the preschool curriculum do not suffer the same fate as arts in the K-12 curriculum.
In recent years, researchers and educators have focused intently on the connection between art and brain development. In particular, people want to know if art promotes higher academic achievement. Researchers are partly motivated by a major decline in the role of art in the K-12 curriculum, spawned by an intense focus on standardized testing and skills-based curricula, along with budget cuts (which often put art on the chopping block first). For supporters of arts education, the need to find a connection between art and brain development goes something like this: "If we can show that art improves math and reading scores, maybe they will put art supplies back in the budget."
Researchers know that mathematicians rely heavily on the same part of the brain as musicians. For example, if you could compare brain scans from Einstein and Mozart, you would notice similarly dense concentrations of synaptic connections in the same regions of their brains. However, we still do not know with certainty whether practicing music improves math skills, or vice versa. Despite millions of dollars and countless studies, nobody has offered conclusive evidence that arts education improve standardized test scores and literacy rates.

Perhaps all that money is better spent on art supplies! Many factors contribute to whether a child performs well on a test. Maybe arts education can boost reading and math skills and maybe it can't. That's beside the point. It is far more important to focus on the things we already know about art and the brain!
As Professor Elliot Eisner of Stanford University said at the convention of the National Arts Education Association, "In the arts, imagination is the primary virtue." Art encourages the brain to visualize and interpret things it cannot see, touch, feel, hear, or taste. This promotes creative, inventive thought as well as critical thinking skills.

What else do children gain from the arts?

  • Art offers children an important outlet for emotional expression and the assurance that their feelings are valuable.
  • Art contributes to cultural as well as individual identity, connecting children to their roots while allowing them to discover their own talents and interests.
  • Art provides a path to dialogue, a way to share and compare ideas.
  • From the young painter concentrating intently on her brushstrokes to the dancer learning to move with grace and agility, the arts promote growth in nearly all areas of development.
  • Most research confirms that young children learn best through experimentation, exploration, and multisensory activities. Art encourages all of these things, so there is no logical argument against placing a strong emphasis on arts in the preschool curriculum.
Arts education should not need to be justified in relation to other academic areas because the arts provide direct, indisputable benefits in and of themselves. Are there specific art activities that can boost reading or math skills? Yes! We also know that creativity flourishes between ages two and five and if it is nurtured and supported, it will become a life long trait. Creative activities like singing, dancing, moving and listening help the brain stay alert and serve as a stimulus for increasing memory. These benefits will surely help children when they are focusing on the more academic subjects.

What art materials or curriculum have you introduced in the classroom to encourage learning through art? Log in to the and share how you have promoted discovery, development and creativity through the use of art in the classroom.

Art Across the Curriculum

By: Francis Wardle, Ph.D.

Corwin From STEM to STEAM: Using Brain-Compatible Strategies to Integrate the Arts
Book (Corwin)
  • Details of brain research connecting STEM and the arts
  • Teacher-tested techniques for fitting the arts into STEM classrooms
  • Sample lesson plans across K-12
  • A worksheet template for designing your own arts-integrated STEM lessons
  • Tips for managing time and collaborating
You might also like
Video 2: Understanding Brain Development for Educators
Video 2: Understanding Brain Development for Educators
Video 4: Art and Brain Development Why is Art Class
Video 4: Art and Brain Development... Why is Art Class ...
Corwin How the ELL Brain Learns
Book (Corwin)
  • A self-assessment pretest for gauging your understanding of how the brain learns languages
  • Ready-to-use brain-compatible strategies for teaching English learners across the curriculum
  • An entire chapter about how to detect English language learning problems, with sections on the social,
  • Title - How the ELL Brain Learns
  • Authored - David A. Sousa
Corwin Building the Reading Brain, PreK-3
Book (Corwin)
  • Developmentally appropriate, brain-friendly strategies for building phonemic awareness, phonics,
  • Instructional applications for games, music, and play
  • Interventions for children with early reading difficultiesBuilding the Reading Brain, PreK-3 sheds
  • Title - Building the Reading Brain, PreK-3
  • Editor - Pamela Nevills
Master The Art of Genius: Your Practical Guide To Unleashing The Genius Within You & Unlocks the Secrets to Increasing Your Brain Power, Speed Reading, ... Smart Thinking, Emotional Intelligence)
eBooks ()
Corwin Mindful Leadership: A Brain-Based Framework
Book (Corwin)
  • Support the mind-body connection
  • Promote social relationships
  • Harness the power of emotion
  • Expedite the construction of knowledge
  • Build a culture of reflection
Related Posts