The relative lack of STEM graduates in the U.S. is frequently cited as a threat to the country’s global standing. However, recently there has been a growing concern from the “other side” — arts, humanities, and social science advocates — about the lack of support for what many would argue are pillars for creativity and innovation. At a time when support for STEM education gets a lion’s share of airtime, Be Social Change hosted an event at the Knewton office that brought together experts to discuss the role of the arts in education.
A panel of innovative educators and leaders shared how they are encouraging creativity among K-12 students and incorporating the arts into the school day. They discussed how creativity contributes to student development in several areas, including communications skills, critical thinking skills, and learning about other cultures and ideas. They also analyzed the challenges of adding creative programs into various school environments and shared the impact creative programs have had in local communities.
This event was the fifth event in the Future of Education series, a collaboration between Knewton and Be Social Change aimed at fostering discussion, accelerating connection, and elevating the conversation around the future of education. The series explores alternative routes to learning, shifting educational paradigms, adaptive learning technology, and the institutions and individuals who are addressing education innovation along the learning continuum. Previous events in the series include Alternative Education and Innovative Schools in New York and Challenges and Opportunities in EdTech. See our events portal for all upcoming events in the series.
Karina Lynch-Graham spoke about the “memories that we give our children” and made the poignant remark that whatever a student takes away from school, she will always remember the play she was in, the story she wrote, the picture she painted, or the concert she played in.
Ron Link discussed the importance of giving students an opportunity explore and define their own aesthetic. He mentioned the intrinsic “with-it-ness” that many of the students in his program possess—the rawness and gutsiness, that when honed and disciplined, becomes something original and visceral. With pride, Ron spoke about the poise and self-awareness that many of his students possess in relation to their art and the process of creating it. Giving these students an opportunity to discover and validate their talent continues to be one of his greatest motivating factors.
Adarsh Alphons described art to be as crucial as “air supply” and framed the situation in stark terms: if a child from a lower socioeconomic status does not have arts education, they are 5 times more likely to drop out of high school and more likely to be cut out of the workforce and ultimately end up in prison. Adarsh argued that for many students, art is the reason they come to school at all and the highlight of their week.
Meet the panelists
Jessica Wilt is founder of ArtsEdTechNYC, a platform for artists, educators, techies and entrepreneurs. A professional tap dancer by trade, Jessica also is a passionate arts educator and advocate, writer and communications consultant. She enjoys contributing stories for the Huffington Post and the Clyde Fitch Report. Jessica is a VOICE Charter School Board Trustee and acting Chair of the Arts Education Council with Americans for the Arts where she is a guest ARTSblog contributor.
Adarsh Alphons founded Project Art in 2011 because he truly believes art saves lives. Expelled from school when he was seven years old for underperforming in academics, his parents put him in a different school. By the time he was fifteen, he was painting portraits for Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and the Pope, all because one art teacher perceived his passion for art, encouraged his aptitude and believed in him. Art opened new doors and helped him work through setbacks as a young adult. He hopes to do the same for the millions of children and youth that do not have even the most basic access to the arts in the US. Through its unique public library partnerships model, ProjectArt aims to bring the program to life through offering free art classes to youth on a large scale. Currently they have 7 branches. By the end of next year, their goal is to hold programs in approximately 26 public library branches in the city. With that, over a 1,000 children and youth will be attending ProjectArt’s free art class in NYC’s public libraries on a weekly basis.
Ron Link is the Principal of Theatre Arts Production Company School (TAPCO), a Middle/High School in the Tremont area of the Bronx. Ron envisions schools of the future where teachers meld the arts and technology to help students realize their creative, academic, economic, and world citizen potential. Ron’s past work in refractive surgery education has been featured in the New York Times, on 20/20 & WebMD. As a member of the technology group of the NYC Writing Project, Ron has been a guest on the weekly podcast Teacher Teaching Teachers. Most recently, Ron received the 2012 Lehman Urban Transformative Education (LUTE) Award, which honors the work of educators who make outstanding contributions to urban education.
Karina Lynch-Graham is a Program Director for The Educational Alliance, a 125-year-old community-based organization. In her most recent role, Karina directed the after school arts and education program at P.S.142 and her program is known for her original works and theater performed by students. The Educational Alliance After Three Program at P.S.142 is an arts and education program that serves children in grades k-5 at P.S. 142. The program offers classes in theater, dance, visual arts, photography, homework help, and STEM based learning activities. All of the student’s work is showcased in culminating events such as plays, art exhibitions and performance festivals throughout the year.
If you’re interested in the future of arts and creativity in schools, be sure to check out the following articles:
What do you think about the future of arts education? Are there any notable programs, activities, and non-profits in your community?
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