Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Art of Learning Math and Science

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KQED blog author, Katrina Schwartz, shows us how art is being integrated into the entire school curriculum in a few pilot programs in a high poverty school area. Instead of being a luxury relegated to that lonely classroom far down some lonely labyrinth, and often cut from the budget completely for less fortunate kids, art is now welcomed into the math and science classes as a motivator. As a result of this experimental program (whereas only 17% of third graders were proficient in math five years earlier), the math proficiency of the students rose to an AMAZING 66%!

People with the fixed mindset assume that the mind cannot be challenged to learn new things; therefore, education should be limited to the proven fundamentals. Many kids in poor neighborhoods have never been taught much about art and music, so it appears they completely lack talent – and there would be no sense in wasting money on kids that lack talent.  But science tells us that the fixed mindset is incorrect. Educators can and should challenge their student’s minds beyond their frontiers, and poor students as well as the more fortunate students can achieve much more. Even kids that have never demonstrated proficiency before can rise up to the challenge; learn new things, as well as new ways of doing things.

When thinking about this topic, one is reminded of Hillary Swank in Freedom Writers or Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver. In these portrayals, both educators challenged students who were disadvantaged and thought to be lost causes, to engage in a new learning and to excel in it. Some of these students went on to rise to the level of their more fortunate counterparts…and some actually exceeded them!

This may be why the pilot programs to integrate art with science and math classes have had such phenomenal results. Contrary to the old belief that the right and left brain are disconnected and work better separately, it seems that each side boosts the other. With the proper education, students who thought they could never do art well became much more adept artistically than most other students. Those who might have otherwise found themselves bored or helpless in science and math were now engaging it. This is because the art component made learning more enjoyable, and somehow easier. The additional benefit of this is that you wind up with students who are now more talented in the arts in addition to being stronger in math and science. This produces a much more adaptable and marketable student with many more options for their future, which of course is helpful to the overall economy of the country.

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