18 | KNOW • Volume 12 Issue 4 Studies on the programs offered by Arts for Learning prove that they are making significant contributions to the learning process. Not only are students’ test scores improving, but teachers reported that the programs have impacted their teaching styles to accommodate the Arts for Learning approach. Specifically within the Digital Storytelling program, students overwhelmingly found working with writing, music and photography enjoyable and “meaningful.” Arts education in schools provides unique opportunities for skill development that is crucial to students’ academic careers in college and beyond. Students can not only master an artistic medium, but also learn real-life skills in the process: collaboration, critical thinking, and decision making, among others. Dr. Virginia Bonner, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia, stresses the importance of creative thought and creative problem solving skills from students throughout their studies in college and their subsequent career paths. Dr. Bonner finds that students who have a background that includes art education are able to not only analyze art, but also interpret meaning within that art, enhancing and expanding their critical thinking skills. One of her favorite courses to teach is Introduction to Film. She states, “when students walk into the class, they don’t need any prior experience. But when they walk out at the end of the semester, they are thinking more about the technical aspects of film,” with an ability to actively appreciate film, rather than passive amusement. She laughs and states that students sometimes lament they are no longer able to simply enjoy a film once they have taken the course, and that they now analyze each film they see for its technical and narrative elements. Dr. Bonner also thinks beyond the classroom to the next generation of people in society who need to solve local and social problems within the communities they live, saying that “art gives the tools to solve problems creatively.” The Georgia Department of Labor put together a 10-year projection of careers in Georgia in 2010, showing the projected growth of jobs through 2020. The chart outlined particular industries and careers, with characteristics of those jobs detailed. The chart displayed what personal characteristics would be necessary for the job seeker to perform the duties adequately, as well as the work and occupational characteristics. Many of the careers listed included a requirement of at least a moderate amount of artistic or creative ability. Careers in sales and marketing, legal services, counseling services, food services and preparation and even dentistry require an ability to think creatively. (*source: http://explorer.dol.state.ga.us/mis/ current/hot_careers_current.pdf) Research and personal observations from educators both indicate that art education has a profound impact on young students at every level of study. From kindergarten to collegiate academics, exposure to art and art education provides students a different way to learn and interpret content in all areas of study. Creative thinking and an artistic sensibility are just two skills that contribute to well-rounded individuals in school and ultimately, successful at work. From learning fine motor skills to interpreting data on spreadsheets, the gift of art in education inspires and will inspire the next generation of great minds.
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