Last Spring there was an uproar in the news and social media about a school in New York that cancelled their annual year-end Kindergarten show. The reason? The students needed to focus more on their studies and preparing for the show was going to take too much time away from their academic study. Many of the parents were horrified and took the issue to the media. Every media outlet covered the story in one way or another and one parent even went so far as to start a Change.org petition to have the show reinstated.
Initially, the school sent out a letter notifying families of the show cancellation and parents were so upset that the Harley School Principal followed up with another letter that, in part, read, “The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers. We are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.” The Superintendent for schools released a statement, following the outcry that resulted from the Principal’s letter, saying that the school had “significant goals for our youngest students….the time spent in preparation and execution of the show is not the best use of the limited time we have with our students.”
Let’s just forget for a minute that the students in question are only five years old and a very long way from college entrance exams, but what happened to all the recent research and initiatives about the importance of the Arts in a child’s education? Perhaps the powers that be, that made the controversial decision, need to be reminded that the Arts play an equally important role (to language and math) in promoting skills that are critical to student success.
There are a number of reports that have clearly shown that involvement in the Arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking and verbal skill. Arts learning also improves motivation, concentration, confidence, problem solving, perseverance, collaboration and teamwork. Wow! That’s not even the complete list. Over the last few years, many new Arts initiatives have taken root, in both public and private schools across the U.S. and Canada. These educational models are based on new findings in brain research that clearly show the correlation between participation in the Arts and academic and social success. There is so much evidence that Arts integration in education actually stimulates deeper learning, creates increased student engagement and cultivates students’ investment in learning, that guess what….these students actually perform better on their academic testing (for those that are indeed still concerned about 5 year olds being prepared for college admission tests).
In our fervor to have our children prepared for the demands of the 21st century and be college and career ready, have we forgotten to educate the whole child? In this era of teaching to standardized testing have we lost sight of the importance of other areas of school life? We sincerely hope not. We look forward to seeing you at the many performances planned for our students during this school year. As you sit in the audience, marveling at the accomplishments of our young performers, remember that life shouldn’t only be about multiplication tables and marks because, after all, all the world is a stage!
Principal and Co-Founder
Children’s Garden School