Building a Case for Your K-12 Art Products

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Organize.

With the Common Core State Standards (and No Child Left Behind for the previous decade) focusing primarily on English language arts (ELA) and math, K-12 vendors often must work harder to foster interest in products and services for other content areas. 

If you’re struggling to sell your arts-related products, know that a strong case can be made for the arts even in the age of the Common Core (CCSS). While budget-conscious schools are focusing on purchases that address the new ELA and math standards, the arts can help their students to achieve many of the targeted learning objectives. In this blog post, we look at four benefits of the arts to consider when crafting your message.

New Emphasis on the Process of Learning

In the CCSS, process matters. Rather than looking only at the final product, students are encouraged to think more about how and why an answer is being derived. Instead of giving a third grade class 10 long division problems, a teacher might ask them to find various ways to solve just three problems. The second task requires the students to explore the process rather than race through the assignment on autopilot.

Consider now the countless decisions that students make when working on an art project. How many shades of blue can they create? What materials will they use to communicate an idea? Will they place the figure in the foreground or background? In each case, students experiment with trial and error and spend time fine-tuning the process to achieve a desired end result.

Understanding Nuance to Solve Complex Problems

The authors of the CCSS, the U.S. Department of Education, and many organizations nationwide want K-12 students to better prepare for success in an increasingly complex, global economy. Long-time arts education scholar and Queens University professor, Rena Upitis, argued in an interview with LearnNow.org that engaging students with art can help them pursue that goal:

The arts teach us that nuance matters, and [they] teach us how to make decisions in the absence of rules… In this millennium, the kinds of approaches we need to solve problems on a global scale are embodied in the arts. We need to have people who can think and feel, people who lead us to solutions we might not think of. There are so many big problems—climate change, the global economic crisis, water crises—and the arts can only help.

While traditional approaches to teaching focus more on concrete bodies of knowledge, the CCSS and other models of 21st-century learning emphasize cultivating cognitive skills like innovation and creativity, both critical elements of the arts.

“Art classes place a high value on breaking the mold,” Ellen Winner, a professor of psychology at Boston College and senior research associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, wrote in an article for The Boston Globe. “Teachers encourage students to innovate through exploration—to experiment, take risks, and just muck around and see what can be learned.”

The Power of Motivation

When students are motivated to learn, their attention, engagement level, and classroom behavior improve. This is another area in which the arts can excel as a teaching tool.

As arts integration specialist Susan Riley explained in an article for Edutopia, the arts are “naturally engaging to students and to teachers.”

“Almost everyone has one art form (visual art, music, dance, or drama) with which they connect and use to make sense of the world,” Riley continued. “By weaving the arts into and through our content in naturally aligned ways, we are providing relevance to student learning, and giving them an opportunity to connect their world to our classrooms.”

Riley and other educators refer to these points of connection as “access points,” which they say are vital to  engaging students with classroom content. For students with special needs or low interest levels, the arts can be particularly helpful.

Deeper Learning through Art

The CCSS and other 21st-century learning initiatives encourage students to dig deeper into materials rather than survey as broad a syllabus as possible. Under the new ELA standards, students might spend more time exploring literary texts in depth, rather than rush through an entire canon. Scholars say this shift better reflects what students will be expected to do in college and on the job in their careers.

It also reflects the natural learning process in the arts. “When studying any piece of art, composition, drama, or dance, once must be able to analyze the components that create the whole,” Riley remarked in her Edutopia article. This can’t happen without taking the time to look closely and deliberate.

“Common Core reading and math standards have both identified the need for this critical practice,” Riley explained, “and many teachers are struggling with implementing it in the classroom.”

David Coleman, a CCSS architect and president of the College Board, agrees. “[Common Core] calls on so many things the arts do well,” Coleman wrote in Guiding Principles for the Arts: Grades K-12. “The tradition of careful observation, attention to evidence and artists’ choices, the love of taking an artist’s work seriously lies at the heart of the these standards.”

Whether you’re marketing curricula, professional development services, or the latest art-focused software, help your prospective customers understand how the arts can play a prime role in preparing students for school, work, and life in the 21st century.

 

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