Arts Education: The Key To Making Students Better at School and at Life?

A Maryland middle school finds its students’ improving academically and socially after becoming fully arts integrated.
Some schools use full arts integration to make non-artistic subjects more engaging. (Photo: Fuse/Getty Images)
Sep 2, 2012· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Edutopia reports that for students at one middle school in Maryland, taking a class where they simultaneously learn about modern dance and the planet Mars is just a normal part of the curriculum. So is a class on fractions and Andy Warhol. The reason is that the school is “fully arts integrated,” meaning that its entire curriculum is a tapestry of traditional subjects woven with arts education.

Wiley H. Bates Middle School became fully arts integrated in 2009, and reports the benefits to its student body have been far-reaching. Edutopia explains that by combining seemingly disparate hard and soft subjects, students are encouraged to think creatively, build connections between concepts, and engage with subject matter in a deeper way. Proponents of the practice also contend that when kids are more deeply engaged in their own learning process, they demonstrate stronger academic growth―especially in areas such as comprehension and retention.

Engagement at Bates Middle School also means students exhibit stronger levels of self-discipline. Since Bates made the switch to full arts integration, the school has seen a 23% drop in suspensions .

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Besides all that, parents and students say that the program encourages kids to build healthy traits like appropriate risk taking, a collaborative spirit, and an ability to bridge social differences.

That seems to echo a recent study from the University of Illinois at Chicago, which found that people with an appreciation for the arts tend to more frequently demonstrate traits like altruism, social tolerance, and civic-mindedness. The study determined that participants did not need to be talented artists themselves, but simply be appreciators of any art form.

Would you be excited for your kids to learn this way, or does it seem too cutting edge for your comfort? Let us know in the comments.