Using art to improve academic ability [2008/01/28]
Children enjoy physical learning
As the debate over less stressful education continues, an experiment aimed at combining academic excellence with children’s individual talents has attracted the attention of educators. This program uses artistic activities such as dance, music, drawing and manual arts to help students understand primary subjects like arithmetic, science, and language. On November 13, as part of an experiment, social studies and science classes at Tokyo’s Yanagawa Elementary School incorporated elements of dance, music, and drama. The courses were organized by the nonprofit organization Artwork Japan (chair: Kyoko Ono), which, with support from the Nippon Foundation, brought an instructor from Canada to conduct the experiment,
The instructor was Canadian actress Coreen Lanky. In addition to performing on the stage and television, Ms. Lanky also teaches at schools through the Learning Through The Arts (LTTA) program. The LTTA program uses artistic activities to improve students’ understanding of primary subjects, with the goal of ensuring that no child is left behind. Begun in 1994, this program has been adopted at more than 350 Canadian schools, from kindergarten through high school. It has been reported that the program has improved literacy rates and test scores, as well as reducing juvenile delinquency. (Photo: Ms. Lanky)
The day’s courses included a third-grade social studies class that focused on occupations, and a fifth-grade science class, in which students pretended to be weather forecasters. Both classes made use of drama and dance. Activities in other classes included using sponges to learn about symmetry and similar shapes, a math class that used clay to understand three-dimensional forms, and a visit to the local community during social studies class, followed by musical expressions of the students’ impressions.
Although Japan is experimenting with a wide range of hands-on learning methods, cases in which specialized artists visit schools to assist in understanding primary subjects are rare.
“I was surprised how easy it was to understand difficult subjects as we learned by moving around, because it felt like I was playing,” commented one of the students, who added, “I even enjoyed math, which is hard for me; I usually don’t like it.” Ms. Lanky said, “Children all around the world like to move around and express themselves.” (Photo: Students learn about occupations through role-play.)