Next week it’s back to school for our community’s students! No one doubts the importance of education to future success in life, but, for some, questions exist regarding the value of the arts to education.

Those who doubt the worth of the arts in students’ lives must be unaware of the vast body of research into the effects of arts involvement on youngsters’ academic and personal outcomes that refute the concept that the arts are less vital to achievement than other subjects.

Darke County Center for the Arts annually takes exciting, talented artists to perform for students in each grade level of all local public schools. In spite of the fact that these performances interrupt an already full school day with multiple demands on students and educators, these shows are warmly welcomed by almost all school kids, as well as most teachers and administrators. Granted, some of the kids are just happy to get out of class for a little while, but many realize that this creative interaction provides much more than entertainment.

When renowned folksingers Kim and Reggie Harris perform “Music of the Underground Railroad” for kindergarten through third grade students in mid-September, all the students will know that they are having fun. But in addition to being exposed to great musicians creating awe-inspiring music, the children will learn American history providing unique insight into the lives and times of diverse others; and when the show is over, the lessons learned will continue to resonate throughout the year and beyond. That happy outcome will repeat itself throughout the school year as DCCA’s presentations bring cultural enrichment that will delight and inspire youngsters throughout Darke County.

The fact that DCCA’s Arts In Education programs provide meaningful interaction with exceptional artists is recognized by students, some of whom can recite with enthusiasm the DCCA shows that they have seen throughout their time at school. Watching reactions among the student body during a performance, an observer can often gauge the lasting impact as well as the immediate pleasure provided by the performance. But beyond simple observation, hard evidence is constantly being compiled documenting that the arts are definitely not an extraneous frill, but an essential contributor to the development of civil society.

Research has established that students who participate in arts education exhibit higher academic achievement than those who do not; this achievement is assessed by measuring grades, I.Q. scores, standardized test scores, and graduation rates. And the benefits do not end at graduation, but continue throughout life. Creativity and innovation are recognized as keys for success not only in school, but also at work; studies show that creative thinking is enhanced through participation in and exposure to the arts by students of all ages. Arts education fosters youngsters’ abilities to be adaptive, flexible, and original in their thinking, and to use language in a sophisticated manner that demonstrates complex thinking processes.

Exposure to the performing arts has been shown to help students express themselves more effectively, as well as to cultivate empathy for others. Positive self-concepts, emotional well-being, and motivation to succeed can result from arts involvement; these personal outcomes are critical to success. The arts create an environment in which students connect learning to their personal life, thus helping them develop focus and concentration, as well as the ability to follow through with tasks. Leadership skills that continue throughout life are often developed during youthful involvement in the arts.

It’s back to school for students—and for DCCA as well, providing a voice that communicates in mysterious as well as documented ways to enhance lives in our community.

Back to school

By Marilyn Delk

Marilyn Delk is a director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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