The role of the arts in helping children learn

September 07, 2012

I was encouraged by Mike McGrew's recent commentary about the value of arts education, a topic that is close to my heart ("The value of arts in education," Sept. 5). It reminds me of a three-year stint I did at Glenmount Elementary School in Northeast Baltimore in the late 1990s as an arts specialist.

At the time, I was a folk musician specializing in culturally diverse children's music, dance and singing games. Due to the tremendous insight of then-Principal Vera Newton, I was brought on part-time to help augment the K-4 curriculum using the arts (drama, music and folk arts/literature).

I knew I was on target when, as a traveling instructor, the regular classroom teachers almost always stayed during my classes because they enjoyed watching their students so engaged. We read folk tales, acted them out, wrote songs to go with them and incorporated traditional dances or singing games as part of the unit.

Each unit ended with a school-wide performance attended by family members. The kids learned songs and games evocative of various times in American and world history that helped them understand various concepts including science and math. They loved it and were fully engaged in this non-traditional model.

Interestingly, when I moved to northern Baltimore County a few years later and approached the principal of the local elementary school there about volunteering as an artist-in-residence, he indicated that they already had a music and art teacher, and the integrated approach I was proposing would be redundant.

It's encouraging to read that programs at other schools have embraced the power of integrating the arts into the classroom to enrich the learning experience of students.

Andrea Cooper, Phoenix

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.