I spent much of the turn of the millennium working in the field of arts education, identifying organizations that could help public school children experience and learn from the arts. Many of these programs were founded on the principle that the arts are necessary for healthy child development and, that in fact, they often lead to higher levels of academic engagement and performance. A growing body of evidence continues to make a strong case for learning through the arts and integrating the arts into education in order to help children develop the key cognitive skills needed for social and emotional strength, positive behaviors, and positive relationships.
As we continue to refine our 2016 curriculum at The Meeting House, I hope to keep my experiences from Uganda close at hand; using them to inform the discussion of how social and emotional development can be enhanced through arts education. When children are given the opportunity to learn through the arts, a process that often requires complex analysis and judgment, they are able to see new perspectives and new opportunities for collaboration. As a result, children ultimately make stronger connections with their peers and build a stronger community within their schools. Perspective gleaned from the arts provides students with another point of entry to ideas, concepts, and relationships that can feel tough to access at first.
When it comes to new arts education initiatives, we are already getting started. For example, we are in the midst of producing an original video project, which through the power of music and dance will help the children learn deeply about language and communication. We are uniquely poised to share the richness of experience that comes through arts education. It is with this deep commitment to furthering our students’ best selves that we happily usher in a new year at The Meeting House.
Paula Resnick is the Founder and Executive Director of The Meeting House