Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Importance of the Arts and Creativity

This is something I have felt passionately about for some time now, since starting my journey with Mantle of the Expert my eyes were opened widely to the benefits learning through the arts could have for children.  Previously an area that I only dabbled with because of my own lack of ability, I quickly came to realise using the arts as a vehicle for the curriculum had an incredible effect on the engagement of all children (not just the ones talented in these areas) and increased the emotional connection ten fold.  Not only did it have a huge impact on their engagement, it also had an incredible effect on their understanding of what we were learning. 

The biggest eye opener for me was how using the arts as a vehicle for curriculum, opened up access to learning for those we would consider 'struggling, shy' learners, and even our ESOL children.  All children seemed to connect with learning in a much deeper way.  The arts is a language we are all capable of engaging with, yet as we get older, we forget and lose this connection unless it is part of our everyday life.

Using the arts as a vehicle for learning was like having a magic key that seemed to unlock learning for all and in that moment of realisation, five years ago, the idea of Number Agents 1.0 was born. 

Number agents has evolved over the last few years, and the storylines morphed as the children add their personalities and ideas to it, but one thing has remained constant....we are learning about maths, but through the vehicle of the arts.  Over the last couple of years in a play-based environment it has developed even further. 

What I came to realise is although I do not consider myself an 'artistic' person, this didn't matter at all, as adults we let this hold us back, but for children using creativity as a means of communication is as natural as breathing.  They don't measure their abilities by any standard. They sing loudly; dance with their whole being truly feeling the music.  They paint and draw with no abandon, and on any surface they are allowed to, including themselves.  They have no prescribed view of right or wrong, of what colour goes with what, find bits and pieces that go together to create a fantastic artwork or a wonderful machine.  They joyfully, with no abandon explore their environment, noticing the
small details that we as adults lost sight of years ago, the mark of a true scientist!   They giggle loudly at funny words that rhyme and say them over and over again just because they can, make up their own jokes with no need of a punch line that makes sense.  They dress up in weird and wonderful outfits and they use drama as part of their play, it is how they learn, so adding it in a more 'directed' learning situation may seem challenging for an adult, it is just a part of who they are for a child. 

What if we captured this ability and actively used it as an approach in our classrooms, what if we used the arts as a means to deliver the curriculum...could we ensure that children did not lose this creativity as they get older, may we even unlock aspects of their abilities that may have gone

untapped in other situations.  Could we have an impact on their overall wellness and sense of being...absolutely I have been overwhelmed by the positive impact it has had across our whole school!

 We all know how therapeutic creativity can be.  I love to write, would have loved to be an author...may still be one day.  I even took up painting when I had my babies as an outlet, I'd never painted in my life, but I absolutely loved it!  Music gives such pleasure to others, it can lift your spirit, even if you have had a bad day, it is like storytelling...the arts communicate directly to our soul, they ground us and centre us, they talk to the 'humanness' of us all.  You only have to go to a concert and feel the vibration of the music, the way it unites the crowd, it is like a zap of electricity to your soul.

Unfortunately over the years our curriculum and the experience we allow children to have in our classrooms has been narrowed by a 'theory' that there are important subjects and those that are just frivolous.  Firstly I don't believe in subjects at all, because we do not experience the world in 'subjects' and secondly I think we have it all wrong, those areas considered frivolous and all but excluded from some of our classrooms today, except for two or three week 'units' playing the recorder, or painting, are actually the most important areas of learning for us.  They allow us to see the world in a different way.  Not as a list of facts to be learned, or arbitrary knowledge that needs to be consumed, but in a way that allows us to see the connected nature of our world.    Engaging creativity and using it has the potential to truly unlock our human potential. 

Why would we deny children this right?

Maths, science, technology, social studies, even sport fall naturally out of the arts and by harnessing creativity we actually expand our ability to truly develop understanding.  If we truly want to be preparing children for the 'future' we need to be embracing creativity, not shying away from it. 

This is a great article here, that I really enjoyed reading.

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