Back to School Special: Is Your Child Being Prepared for a Successful Life?

It’s the relationship between high quality creative learning experiences, which build capacities in our children, and communities. - Big Thought, Dallas Texas

After a fun-filled summer, now it’s time for the kids to head back to school. What are you kids doing to prepare for future success in their classrooms?

We bring you this blog post about creativity and innovation working together through a fifth grade STEAM challenge project.

Introducing, Pencil Poppers!

A group of fifth graders charged with the challenge to identify something that could make their world easier decided to eliminate falling pencils. They collaborated on research, strategy, manufacturing, copyright, marketing and PR tasks to build a business plan working with adults inside and outside their school. Proceeds from Pencil Poppers sales went to a local charity. 

Pencil Poppers was an interdisciplinary real world project conducted at North Roswell Elementary School (RNE) led by teacher, Ayo Richardson. Kindra Smith, Fulton County Schools 2014 Principal of the Year, explains, “Projects like this are the cornerstone of our strategy to integrate 21st Century skills into curriculum. They elevate learning standards and layer them across the arts. They help children to think differently.”

Inspired by the huge success of schools such as the Ron Clark Academy and the DaVinci Academy in Hall County, educators are deliberately including Artistic Engagement throughout the curriculum. In some locations, the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) curriculum is transitioning to STE”A”M. 

This inclusion is not arbitrary, but evidence based. Research concludes engaging with the Arts cultivates collaboration, communication, and higher order thinking (creativity, synthesis, memory, reasoning, pattern recognition). Students of the Arts consistently outscore other students on SATs and similar assessments. More important, these students soar emotionally and socially, demonstrating increased motivation, attention, discipline, empathy, flexibility, volunteerism, and self- confidence. 

It is for these reasons that 20 years ago “creating” replaced “evaluating” on the Bloom Taxonomy of Learning, that the adjective, creative is the most used buzzword in LinkedIn profiles and why Google’s hiring process values individual learning ability more than GPA scores.

With a love for music, Smith knows that there are multiple forms of intelligence, and that traditional methods are limiting. “At the end of the day we want our students to be successful. Artistic expression gives students a voice and choices. It levels the playing field. We are deliberate about connecting engineering, art and design into daily learning.”

Integrated Arts Education teaches content and the medium equally. Imagine students studying rhythm to understand the ebb and flow of history, or choreography to experience the solar system, or sound variations correlated to human behavior and personality. At RNE, a popular Language Arts teacher energizes students to learn adverbs and the like through learning how to chant. 

Taking cues from companies like Google, Pixar and IDEO, Smith wants physical spaces redesigned to support project based learning. “We must create more spaces for students to collaborate, create, film, record, design and produce. Circular tables and seating in hallways and meeting rooms foster informal interaction, inclusion, and promote interdisciplinary content development. An outdoor learning garden gifted by outgoing fifth graders provides classes an authentic learning space outdoors. ”

Despite evidence, Arts education remains the stepchild of Public School Education, too often viewed as a form of play. I suggest that the Studying the Arts are as fundamental as math and science and an education without them is an impoverished education leading to an impoverished society. Studying the arts should not have to be justified in terms of anything else. They are time-honored ways of learning, knowing, and expressing.

Enhancing Arts Education and experiences in Roswell is a critical part of Roswell’s overall economic and cultural development. If the Arts are not a robust part of our education system, then we are no longer preparing kids for life.   

The last words go to Smith, “Our goal is to raise strong minded, compassionate, innovative thinkers, who will solve real world problems tapping on a wide range of resources to collaborate and communicate with others. 

Is your child being prepared for life? What can you do to ensure an enriched education for all our children?

This blog originally appeared in The Current Hub, July 2014.  http://www.thecurrenthub.com/2014/07/child-prepared-successful-life/