Running head: ARTS EDUCATION 1
Arts Education to Foster Creativity in Schools
Kelsey E. Stevenson
Grand Valley State University
ARTS EDUCATION 2
Arts Education to Foster Creativity in Schools
Tom Horne, the Arizona state superintendent of public instruction said, “When you think
about the purposes of education, there are three. We’re preparing kids for jobs. We’re preparing
them to be citizens. And we’re teaching them to be human beings who can enjoy the deeper
forms of beauty. The third is as important as the other two” (as cited in Smith, 2009, para 17).
Creativity and self-expression are vital parts of child development and should be
implemented in schools all over the country for that reason. This paper will discuss the
importance of creativity for child development, the ways in which the arts increase students’
success in core subjects, and the effects that the implementation of arts education has on
The Importance of Creativity for Child Development
There are many roles that education plays and teachers, administrators, parents, and
students all interpret these roles in different ways. The overarching role of education that
encompasses most peoples’ opinions is to “prepare the students.” It may be preparing students
for a job, preparing them for life, or many other things. In order to prepare the students for such
things, you have to find a way to fully engage the students, particularly at an elementary level, so
that they have a similar goal and are “prepared” for whatever may come their way. According to
Dr. Rena Upitis (2011), many teachers, administrators, parents and even scholars agree that
“education in elementary school should be education for life” (p. 7).
One very important component in a child’s early years of development is creativity and
expression through the arts. Many who disagree argue that subjects like science and math should
take precedence over things like music and dance because they are more important to
development and success. However, many well-known scientists have a history in the arts and
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claim that their experiences in the arts have fostered their imagination in science. Physicist
Murray Gell-Mann is also a poet, physicist Victor Weisskopf is a pianist and even Johannes
Kepler was an artist and a musician. Science is not necessarily just facts, statistics, and logic, but
also imagination and exploration into the unknown, something that requires creativity. When
math and science education is pushed and other subjects are limited, the ability to raise
interesting questions and solve creative problems is also limited (Zweig, 1986). The arts
obviously play a key role in a child’s development, just as it did in many famous scientists’ lives.
Ellen Dissanayake, a scholarly writer in subjects such as philosophy and anthropology,
also believes in the essentiality of art in every person’s life. She believes that there are five
features that are natural in human development, all relating to the arts. The first is “art-making is
universal” because it is a way of communication that people of all cultures and societies can
participate in. The second is “the investment of resources in the arts” due to the fact that people
in ancient times invested a significant amount of time and resources into the arts. The third is
“biological importance” because many people’s daily rituals and routines are “artified” as she
calls it. The fourth is “arts are associated with pleasure” because we as human beings typically
strive for creative activities like music or dance. The fifth and final feature is “juvenile
predisposition to the arts” because children naturally are drawn to things such as rhythms,
singing, and stories (Upitis, 2011).
The Arts and Increased Success in Other Subjects
There is a strong focus in today’s education system on reading, mathematics, and science,
all of which are typically tested through standardized testing. The focus on these subjects often
minimizes the need for any arts related subjects, because of a general assumption that the arts are
less important. A study done by Webb and Rule (2013) showed the effects of integrating
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creativity into a health and nutrition class for second graders. It focused on their knowledge of
health and nutrition when using the creativity learning techniques and when using traditional
learning techniques. The teachers began classes by encouraging creativity and creating an
enthusiastic environment for the students. The study showed that when students participated in
the creative learning techniques, they not only revealed higher levels of creativity but also better
content knowledge and retention. The overall conclusion was that students in a creative arts-
related environment are still able to retain information, if not retain more information, while also
enhancing skills like originality, emotion, and storytelling (Webb & Rule, 2013).
In 1995, The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, CA established a Canadian artist-
teacher education approach called Learning Through the Arts. Learning Through the Arts is a
“proven transformative educational program that uses arts-based activities to teach the core
curriculum by providing teachers with creative tools to engage all students in math, science,
language arts, social studies, and more” (“Learning Through the Arts®,” n.d.). There has been a
significant amount of research done on this program over the years, majority of it proving the
success of the program.
A research study done by Smithrim and Upitis (2005) showed that students who are
heavily involved in the arts at school had generally more engagement in school. The most vital
finding in the study was that the students’ involvement in the arts did not decrease their
involvement or success in math and language arts. The Learning Through the Arts program
actually had showed greater student achievement in mathematics specifically, mostly because the
students were so heavily engaged in the arts related learning styles. Many of the learning
techniques used in this program also involvement physical movement, and 78% of students
wanted more physical education in school after being in this program. Many parents also valued
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the social benefits that came from the program, saying that their children were making new
friends, staying out of trouble, and becoming more interested in school and in things and
activities outside of school (Smithrim & Upitis, 2005). Some teacher testimonials from the
program said that they were consciously making efforts to use the arts more frequently at school,
they regretted that they did not realize how important the arts were at the beginning of their
teaching careers, and that their students that typically struggled in school or seemed “hopeless”
were excelling in the Learning Through the Arts program (Elster, 2001).
Arts Education in Schools to Foster Creativity
Even if teachers today do not appreciate the arts or have backgrounds in music, dance, or
drama, there is an enormous value in encouraging students to be creative, especially at an
elementary level. At such a young age, children are developing academically, socially,
emotionally and spiritually. Incorporating the arts into classrooms can give children the
opportunity to thrive in all these areas. Not only do the arts promote development in many other
subjects for the average child, but they also have been proven to help those children who struggle
in different ways. For example, there have been studies that have shown that English Language
Learners, or ELLs, are able to learn English faster through the use of music (Paquette & Rieg,
2008). In the early years when a child’s brain is still developing, environments that incorporate
the arts help children to be more creative, become more engaged and interested, and to learn in a
Teachers play a huge role in the incorporation of the arts into the classroom. They have to
be supportive and on board with arts education programs in order for students to feel as though
they are in a safe, open environment. Teachers lay down the foundation for students to be
creative. When teachers teach in a creative way, students are able to express themselves and be
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vulnerable. Being creative doesn’t necessarily mean painting or singing, but rather redefining
problem-solving, developing feelings and emotions for the world around you, or daring to take
creative risks (Tanggaard, 2011). Because the arts can play such a vital role in child
development, requiring it in schools makes it available to all students. Many children that come
from wealthy families have the opportunity to be enrolled in ballet or visit the art museum, while
low-income children do not. Eric Cooper, founder of the National Urban Alliance for Effective
Education, said, “Arts education enables those children from a financially challenged
background to have a more level playing field with children who have had those enrichment
experiences” (as citied in Smith, 2009, para 2).
This paper discussed the importance of creativity for child development, the ways in
which the arts increase students’ success in core subjects, and the effects that the implementation
of arts education has on students. Arts education should be implemented in schools, especially
at the elementary level because creativity and self-expression are vital to child
development. Plato once said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the
mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything” (as cited in
Paquette & Rieg, 2008, p. 231).
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Elster, A. (2001). Learning Through the Arts™ Program goals, features, and pilot results.
International Journal of Education & the Arts, 2, 7-24.
Learning Through the Arts®. (n.d.). The Royal Conservatory Web site. Retrieved October 23,
2015 from http://learning.rcmusic.ca/learning-through-arts.
Paquette, K. R. & Rieg, S. A. (2008). Using music to support the literacy development of young
English Language Learners. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36, 227-232.
Smith, F. (2009). Why arts education is crucial, and who’s doing it best. Retrieved October 10,
2015 from http://www.edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development
Smithrim, K. & Upitis, R. (2005). Learning through the arts: Lessons of engagement. Canadian
Journal of Education, 28, 109-127.
Tanggaard, L. (2011). Stories about creative teaching and productive learning. European Journal
of Teacher Education, 34, 219-232.
Upitis, R. (2011). Arts education for the development of the whole child (Unpublished doctoral
dissertation). Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, Toronto, ON.
Webb, A. N. & Rule, A. C. (2013). Effects of teacher lesson introduction on second graders’
creativity in a science/literacy integrated unit on health and nutrition. Early Childhood
Education Journal, 42, 351-360.
Zweig, C. (1986). Exploring the link between arts and sciences: ‘Artistic creativity enhances
scientific imagination,’ L.A. Biochemist claims. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from