Does Art Help the Brain and Learning?

Attached is an article sent to me by a friend that talks about how art can help children and adults think and learn.

Does Art Education Help the Brain and Learning?
By Michelle M. Guilbeau-Sheppard

Today’s biology suggests that art education helps to lay the groundwork for future academic and career success. In recent times, neuroscience has steadily made new discoveries and because of these discoveries art education has had an increased interest.

Past beliefs of the brain and thinking have been that the left brain held the “higher order” thinking skils such as rational thinking, exploration, and accuracy and the right brain focused on perception of beauty and ugliness, feeling, and imagination.

However, according to an article written by Kearney (1996), that belief is not completely true, current research shows that learning is “both brained.” The brain is remarkably adaptable and although one of the obvious outcomes of teaching art is for the students to hopefully acquire drawing skills; art also teaches thinking skills and builds expressive and memory skills.

Art education aids the brain in actually rewiring itself to make stronger neural connections and more neural connections. Art allows the recipient a path for him/herself to experience the world. There is substantial data on achievement scores and the art education correlation, data shows that most art centered schools have higher achievement scores in academic areas than non-art centered schools.

There is much artistic merit and aesthetic enjoyment that comes from art, but it is very important to remember that art enrichment comes from challenge and feedback.

Two apparent ideas of thought come from the brain research field and art enrichment. The first is to eliminate any possibility of threat and the second is to enrich, enrich, enrich! The evidence is undeniable that enriched environments do grow more neural connections in the brain, thus making for a better brain.

So what if we don’t enrich? According to Diamond and Hopson (1998) in “teenage” rats, a boring environment had a more powerful thinning effect on the cortex than did a positive, enriched environment on thickening the cortex. However, the study showed the shrinkage can be reversed in as little as four days.

Thus, it would seem the hours spent in school and at home should be spent nurturing a better brain by enriching like crazy!

Finally, if learning is what we value, then we ought to value the method of learning as much as the result of learning. Humans have survived for thousands of years not by always getting the “right” tried and true answer but instead by trying out and experiencing new things. Good quality education encourages the exploration of alternative thinking, multiple answers and creative insights.

Kearney, P.(August 3, 1996). “Brain Research Shows Importance of Arts in Education.” The Star Tribune, p.19A.
Diamond, M., and J. Hopson. (1998) Magic Trees of the Mind. New York: Dutton Books, Penguin-Putnam Group.

How the Arts Enable Our Children to Operate at their Peak

Watch this engaging animation of a speech by Sir Kenneth Robinson.  It will  be one of the most valuable 10 minutes of you could invest in your childrens’ future. 

He provides an insightful discussion on “How do we educate our children to take their place in the 21st century” and “How the arts develop divergent thinking and enable our children’s senses to operate at their peak”