Does Including the Arts Make a Difference?

Article excerpt

The arts touch the sensitive aspects of humanity

In today's jargon, when someone says something that has an obvious answer, the quirky quick reply is "Duh?" Althrough simple in structure, this single syllable can speak volumes. A statement that may evoke with a response is "Wouldn't the world be a quieter and more austere place without music and art?" "Duh?"

Yet, in many schools today, where good test scores for reading and math take precedence, sadly the curriculum is being revised to increase reading and math time and reduce art and music time to achieve this end, leaving the world of the arts not experienced. What will this mean to a generation of students who are deprived of an introduction to Monet, Picasso and Cave Art or Mozart, Bach and Jazz? Can this gap for a wellrounded education be filled with reading and math alone?

There is no question that the core courses of reading and math are the building blocks of education, but what holds these bricks together is the mortar of science, social studies, physical education and the arts. A well-rounded curriculum supports the core and enriches and enhances these studies by blending all of these other components. A narrow focus in any curriculum can produce only limited understanding.

But what about the arts? How can it be said that they enrich a curriculum and enrich a student's overall educational experience? Natalie Pionegro, a music teacher at St. Thomas More School in Alientown, Pennsylvania, believes that the arts "touch the sensitive aspects of humanity." The arts allow a student to "express him/herself in ways that require feeling and emotion" and offer a balance of experiences between creativity and prescribed subjects. The arts also develop training in "time management, critical thinking and cooperative learning" all of which are real-world skills. Using the arts as support through cross-curricular projects broadens and deepens understanding of the core.

On Stage

At St. Thomas More, a K-8 school, Pionegro and art teacher Janet Plangemann work hard to develop such an enriching program. Besides teaching music appreciation classes, Pionegro writes and directs two musical productions every year. The fifth and sixth grades do a Christmas play themed for the holidays and the seventh and eighth grades do a play for the May spring arts festival themed with a timely message. Pionegro writes her own material because she has found few plays appropriate for these age groups. She also includes every student who wishes to be in the play, and few plays offer the parts necessary to cater to such a large cast.

Another benefit to writing her own material is that Pionegro has the freedom to generate as many or as few parts as required. Depending on the boy/girl ratio, she can add or delete characters as necessary. Since the school has been blessed with Pionegro for a number of years, her plays are now tradition and students look forward to their time on stage. Their performances are the result of hard work, fun and grasping opportunities to be creative not otherwise offered in math class or on the soccer field.

These opportunities to appear and speak in public develop a stage presence that even parents are surprised to see. …