Arts education has lasting benefits beyond school years

Paint brushes in the front with the hand of an artist holding a brush and paint pallet.
Posted on: September 8, 2017

Christine Peets

“Art in and of itself is a basic human activity and children are all inherently creative, so we want to nurture that in a forward-thinking culture.”

That was arts educator Gabriel Deerman’s first thought when asked about the main benefits of arts education. Deerman is an Ontario College of Teachers and Internationale Baccalaureate certified educator with expertise in media including painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpture and mixed media, and the current co-owner of Salmon River Studios where he teaches art programs. He also runs art programs in schools.

There is no doubt that having an arts program as part of a curriculum has benefits not only for children taking the program, but for their future and for society in general. Nurturing creativity in all forms, Deerman said, helps everyone to reach their full potential, which goes beyond the school years.

“Essentially, [by not having arts in the schools] the long term effect is the inevitability of the arts being diminished. We need to nurture that creativity from day one, as it does not come in adulthood as easily when it hasn’t been fostered in childhood,” he said. “Art and creativity can be taught, and the added benefit  of nurturing creative thought is that it benefits other areas of learning. There are a lot of components of creative problem-solving, hand-eye co-ordination, and so forth. It makes us think outside the box—beyond any technical ability needed to produce the art.”

Beyond the technical benefits, there are creative benefits, and there is historical context that  the arts help people, Deerman noted. If we only look at the maths and sciences, then we are limited in the appreciation of creative beauty.

“We want to look at what kind of world we want to shape and what to do with those other skills. The arts help kids so much because they are the ‘idea generation’ and learning within the arts gives kids skills to overcome adversity, and become more resilient. They have a chance to learn from their failures, which is a skill we all need to develop.”

Development of skills in the arts is available in all schools in the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) from Kindergarten (K) to Grade 12. Many schools put examples of their art programs on the website, such as these programs at Nationview Public School.

During Education Week, held from May 1 to 5 this year, many schools highlighted Canadian art in their curriculums to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. It is evident that the arts play a large role in the UCDSB programs for students, including those who are attending school later in life.

The TR Leger School for Adult, Alternative and Continuing Education gives students the opportunity to learn the Visual Arts at the Grade 9 and Grade 10 level. In Grade 9, they become familiar with the elements and principles of design and the expressive qualities of various materials through working with a range of materials, processes, techniques and styles. They also develop critical thinking skills and learn about art in Canada and in other cultures. In Grade 10 they build on what they’ve learned, and refine that knowledge in the application of the elements and principles of design.

Students can choose to achieve the course objectives in a comprehensive program or a more focused one, so critical decision-making processes are put into practice. There is no prerequisite for either level of the course. More information about all of the programs is on the TR Leger website.

These are just some of the arts programs in schools within the UCDSB, and there are some examples of children’s creativity being nurtured on the UCDSB Parent Involvement Committee (PIC) Facebook page. Scroll down to find the Earth Day projects that will make fine activities for a summer’s day.

Nurturing creativity and arts education have long-lasting benefits well beyond the school years.

Christine Peets is the Writer in Residence for the Upper Canada District School Board Parent Involvement Committee