The Importance of Art, Music & Phys Ed in Elementary School
While increasing focus on reading, writing and mathematics at the elementary school level over the past 20 years, programs in art, music and physical education have been cut, leaving students with few physical and creative outlets during the school day. Declines in these areas have occurred at all levels of education even as evidence indicates that all three subjects contribute to increased achievement in academic subjects and the overall health and well-being of young children.
Declining Programs in Art, Music and PE
Art, music and PE courses are among the first programs to be eliminated as budget cuts occur across the country. For example, Illinois cut $152 million from the education budget in 2011 while Mississippi cut spending by 10.5 percent in the same year. A study issued by the National Education Association described cuts in education budgets in 23 states in 2011. Between 1982 and 2008, the United States saw an overall decline in art education at a rate of 23 percent, according to a report published by the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation. When looking specifically at music programs, 57 percent of students in 2008 attended schools where music education was part of the week's instruction. Physical education programs are also on the decline, with only 4 percent of elementary schools currently providing daily PE classes for a generation of students with the highest obesity rate since 1970.
Art Develops Critical Thinking, Creativity
Art education at the elementary level affects student growth and development beyond the art classroom both physically and educationally. Development of motor skills is supported by motion required in art classes, including holding pencils and crayons or using a paintbrush. Decision-making and visual learning skills are also supported in art classes for young students as they are required to use creativity and critical-thinking skills in designing their own art projects. The development of visual-spatial skills is supported with drawing and painting activities. Additionally, the process-driven basis of art education develops student ability to engage in a project and develop creative solutions to a problem.
Music Supports Math, Language Development
Music education also benefits the mental and social development of the young child. Similar to art education, music helps to develop spatial intelligence -- particularly spatial-temporal skills -- which allows students to visualize how elements fit together, which is required in solving math problems. Music education is also found to support language development as music supports the development of the left side of the brain, which also processes language. This development is particularly important in children ages 2 to 9. Additionally, a study at the University of Toronto found a small increase in IQ score in 6-year-olds who received nine months of weekly voice and piano lessons.
Developing Social, Emotional Wellness in PE
In addition to the health benefits of physical education, there are also educational, psychological and emotional benefits to its inclusion at the elementary level. According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, physical education can support knowledge learned in other disciplines, including science, math and social studies. Physical activity also increases self-discipline, judgment and goal-setting skills. The inclusion of physical education in the school day helps students strengthen relationships with their peers, reduces stress and improves self-confidence and self-esteem.