March 28, 2016

A Closer Look at the A in STEAM

Guest post by Mary Tighe

I’m admittedly biased about music education. My family is a musical one: my sister teaches elementary music and voice lessons; my brother writes his own songs (and is obnoxiously talented at all musical instruments and singing); my youngest sister currently studies music education and vocal performance, with a dream of finding a career in music therapy.

My parents met through Up With People, for goodness sake.

From the conversations about arts education in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to STEM vs. STEAM debates, recent arts education discussions really strike a chord (pun intended) with me. Without music education, my school experience would have been incredibly different and much less creative.

While they may not always get top billing, arts have play a role in KnowledgeWorks Schools. Reynoldsburg High School has a partnership with the Columbus BalletMet and their Encore Academy is focused on the arts. One of the two academies at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, Maryland, is The Institute for Recording Arts, Media and Production. (School alumni Cab Calloway would be proud.)

What role can music play in education? Here are some perspectives from current music teachers:

  1. Becca, Elementary Music Teacher in Minnesota: Music has developmental benefits, especially at the elementary level. The music classroom is a great place for students to develop gross and fine motor functions and spatial awareness through creative movement. It also helps strengthen memory skills, reading skills and more. But it’s so much more:”As our school’s music specialist, I often witness students who have been having a ‘rough day’ in their general classroom who come alive in the music classroom. All students succeed at instrument playing, singing and moving in some way, so the music classroom is a place where creativity is able to come out and be shared with others in a safe way to help with inclusion, emotional safety and individual success.”
  1. Tim, High School Band Director in Ohio: Music is the culmination of other subjects at school. It includes math (rhythm and counting), science (tone and pitch), language arts (reading and interpreting), history (significance of the text or music), art (expression and interpretation), and physical education (posture, breathing and support). Students use these skills from other subjects to create something together.“What a wonderful way to learn every subject and give meaning to even the most seemingly mundane things. Students can demonstrate mastery of a subject and take what they have learned to create something new with it.”
  1. Bri, Middle School Music Teacher in Minnesota: It’s incredible important to allow students to learn and creatively explore in school through the arts.“We are living in a society that constantly requires more and more creative thinking. Music is emotional, mental, and physical, and it can help kids to develop in ways a traditional classroom can’t always reach.”
  1. Bryan, High School Choir Director in Illinois: Music – specifically ensemble singing – teaches students about the world around them and encourages teamwork between people with different backgrounds.“It opens our eyes to beauty and passion. It allows us to experience the past as we listen to and perform masterpieces. It teaches us that life is about working with and helping others. It instills confidence in performers while simultaneously teaching us that we are always capable of doing more.”
  2. Sean, Elementary and Middle School Music Teacher in Minnesota: Music has many different educational and social benefits. It teaches the value of diligent, thorough work. It helps students learn about and understand different cultures, broadens horizons and gives them a new creative outlet.“We teach and learn music because it is good in itself. It improves virtually anything in our lives: alleviates pain, magnifies joy, and expresses emotions.”

Through STEAM and with support from ESSA, music education can be a reality for all students. While students will enter the workforce with a variety of degrees, the arts can help develop skills for the real world.

Learn more about ESSA from a new resource by KnowledgeWorks.

Written by: Guest Post

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