The arts are an important part of a well-rounded education for all students. Arts-rich schools, those with high-quality arts programs and comprehensive course offerings, benefit students in and outside of the art or dance studio, music room, or stage. “All children deserve arts-rich schools,” Secretary Duncan told an audience of arts education advocates in 2012, as he discussed the disappointing results of an ED survey that showed many students lacking adequate access to arts education.
There’s no better time to echo the secretary’s pronouncement than in March, widely known as “Arts in the Schools Month.” Under the leadership of national associations representing teachers of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts, a variety of activities unfold throughout the month — some that showcase the achievements of students and others that focus on the professional growth of arts educators committed to achieving the goal of arts-rich schools for all students.
Music with a message
What began as a single, one-day event in one state 40 years ago is now Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM). This year’s theme, “Music Makes Me ______,” invites students to complete that thought on social media with the hashtag #MIOSM2014. Check out the MIOSM website for a number of ways to get in harmony with the celebration, including the Concert for Music In Our Schools Month, featuring videos of school music groups nationwide performing.
To begin the month, the Music In Our Schools Tour, featuring Danielle Bradbery, the Season 4 winner of The Voice, will recognize five schools, stretching from Albuquerque, N.M., to Charlotte, N.C., for excellence in music education and the support of their communities. Sponsored by Give a Note Foundation, a part of the National Association for Music Education, and Disney Performing Arts, the tour begins on March 2 at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and concludes March 8 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., where Bradbery will perform at Festival Disney, a national competitive music festival where top school bands, instrumental and vocal ensembles compete with other schools from across the country.
Bradbery learned the value of persistence and hard work through music education and wants to share that along with her songs and vocal talent with other students on the tour. “This is a great way to reach kids my age and show them that the skills they learn in music can help them to be successful in life,” she said. Click here to follow the tour and see photos.
Honoring artistic achievements and creativity
For students of dance, March is when the National Dance Education Organization celebrates the artistic and academic achievements of exceptional students through the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NAHSDA), which recognizes students who display outstanding artistic merit, leadership, and academic achievement in studying dance. Students who are members of NHSDA have an opportunity to be nominated for one of the highest honor programs for dance in the U.S., the NDEO Artistic Merit, Leadership, and Academic Achievement Award.
Youth Art Month (YAM) focuses on the value of visual art and art education for all children, with the theme of “Start With Art, Learn for Life.” State affiliates of the National Art Education Association (NAEA) help with support of YAM programs throughout the month, and NAEA members locally sponsor art exhibits and other activities to direct attention to benefits of visual arts learning and to increase community understanding and support of their schools’ arts education programs. NAEA state affiliates also participate in the annual YAM flag design program. Each state selects a student-designed flag that becomes part of an awards ceremony at the NAEA national conference and a gallery of student art from across the country, the Youth Art Month Museum, located in the exhibit hall of the conference.
Putting a focus on professional growth
Like all academic areas, students of the arts are successful because of teachers who are highly skilled, knowledgeable of developments in their fields, and motivated. For theatre and visual art educators especially, March is a time to gain new insights and up their game through professional development.
The American Alliance for Theatre Education (AATE) facilitates 13 Regional Mini-Conferences, beginning on March 1 in North Carolina, and concluding on March 29 in New Jersey, Texas, and Washington State. The gatherings offer educators, along with artists and scholars, opportunities to network, exchange ideas, and learn new curriculum and instructional strategies from one another and professional development experts.
At the end of the month, more than 6,000 NAEA members from throughout the U.S. and representing more than 30 other countries gather for SPARK! — the association’s annual conference. As the title suggests, this year’s conference explores ways to fuse innovative teaching in the visual arts with emerging technologies. Conferees select from more than 1,000 participatory workshops, panels, and seminars and learn from world-acclaimed educators, artists, researchers, and scholars.
It’s your turn to get involved
Arts-rich schools benefit everyone. Research increasingly shows that arts education heightens engagement for all students and can increase motivation and persistence for those most at risk of failing or dropping out of school. Learning in the arts also uniquely equips students with the skills in creativity and divergent thinking as well as problem-solving and teamwork that they need to be college and career ready. The Arts Education Partnership, with support from ED and the National Endowment for the Arts, has publications and a research clearinghouse, ArtsEdSearch, to help you learn more about why the arts in our schools are worth honoring for a month.
Take advantage of Arts in Schools Month to learn more about arts education, connect with teachers of the arts to show support for their efforts, and do what you can to help achieve the goal of arts-rich schools for all students.
Doug Herbert is a special assistant in the Office of Innovation and Improvement and editor of the OII home page.
This blog is cross-posted on the ED Homeroom blog, where you will find additional comments. Click here to see the Homeroom blog and comments.