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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Fine Arts Courses Help Students Excel In Math And Science

Beyond the argument that education should be designed to create a well-rounded citizen with an appreciation for a wide range of knowledge, there have been dozens of large-scale studies showing that an integrated curriculum of the sciences, humanities, and arts helps students excel in all areas of K-12 learning.
Of course, the sciences aren’t going anywhere. No one is talking about cutting math or biology from underfunded schools. However, the arts (which include music, visual arts, theatre/drama, and dance) are routinely on the chopping block, despite evidence that they help students excel in other subjects somehow deemed more necessary to future success (or to put it more bluntly, STEM).
Here are just a few large-scale studies showing correlations between arts education and student achievement:
  • In 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts released the report "The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth," which showed that low-income students who had access to the arts also tended to have better academic results. The benefits of exposure to music, theatre, and dance continued throughout their lives, corresponding to better workforce opportunities, and more civic engagement as well.
  • A 2011 study from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) called "Reinvesting in Arts Education" found that integrating arts with other subjects helped raise test scores and improved student learning measures overall. Researchers found that skills learned in the visual arts also helped with literacy skills and that playing an instrument led to better math outcomes.
  • The Arts Education Partnership (AEP) compiled a number of research studies related to the impact of arts on academic outcomes in its “Champions of Change” report. It showed a high level of correlation between participation in the arts and higher grades and test scores in both math and reading. One of the studies incorporated into the report was James Catterall’s analysis of 25,000 students, which showed that high levels of arts participation gave students an advantage over “arts poor” students in nearly every subject. The 7 research teams involved in the summary study provided evidence that arts education reached students who were otherwise disengaged from school, gave students with different interests an outlet to excel with their unique skills, connected students to one another more successfully than other subjects, improved the learning environment overall, provided new challenges for already successful students, encouraged more self-directed learning, and promoted a more sophisticated and creative learning process that allowed them to succeed in other subjects.
  • If you’re seeking more local studies, there are dozens available, including one from the Missouri Arts Council, in conjunction with the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, that showed that students who participated in fine arts classes (music, visual arts, theatre, and dance) had better classroom behavior and required fewer disciplinary interventions. Not only that, exposure to fine arts courses correlated to higher scores on standardized math tests, better scores in communications courses, and higher graduation rates.
    A 2013 study from Mississippi State University on "Arts Integration and the Mississippi Arts Commission's Whole Schools Initiative” showed that not just the presence of the arts but their meaningful integration into other school subjects improved classroom learning, especially for at-risk students. MSU researcher Judith Philips concluded that:
    Schools that effectively implement arts integration have either significantly reduced or completely eliminated the educational achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students.
    Myriad research shows that students from all socioeconomic backgrounds benefit from arts education. And while the good news is that the National Center for Education Statistics’ “Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools” report shows that music and visual arts education is still commonly available in primary and secondary schools and are integrated into other subjects about 50% of the time, there is very little access across the country to theatre/drama or dance.
    Now, a new study shows that some of the more neglected arts may actually be the ones we need to help low-achieving students excel in other subjects. The findings come from a team at Johns Hopkins University and were published in early February in the journal Trends in Neuroscience and Education.
    The researchers found that incorporating arts such as rap, dance, and drawing into science lessons can help students retain more knowledge and be more creative in their learning.
    In order to study the effect of the integration of these activities into science classes, researchers studied 350 fifth-graders in 6 schools in Baltimore, Maryland. Students were randomly assigned to a class on "astronomy and life science" or "environmental science and chemistry." For 3-4 weeks, the students took either an arts-integrated class or a conventional class and then switched to the other so that all students could experience both types of courses.
    According to the press release, the arts-integrated classes included “rapping or sketching to learn vocabulary words, and designing collages to separate living and non-living things.” The researchers then analyzed tests taken by the students prior to, during, and 10 weeks after the study ended in order to analyze their retention of the material. They found that:
    …students at a basic reading level retained an average 105 percent of the content long term, as demonstrated through the results of delayed post-testing. The researchers discovered that students remembered more in the delayed post-testing because they sang songs they had learned from their arts activities, which helped them remember content better in the long term, much like how catchy pop lyrics seem to get more and more ingrained in your brain over time.
    And while the incorporation of more fine arts into schools will cost money, the benefits seem to greatly outweigh the cost long-term.
    It’s also important to note that arts education does not seem to detract from other learning and has a beneficial effect on students already performing at a high level. The Johns Hopkins researchers said:
    Our data suggests that traditional instruction seems to perpetuate the achievement gap for students performing at the lower levels of academic achievement. We also found that students at advanced levels of achievement didn't lose any learning from incorporating arts into classrooms, but potentially gained benefits such as engagement in learning and enhanced thinking dispositions. For these reasons, we would encourage educators to adopt integrating the arts into content instruction.
    While this doesn’t solve the problem of how schools will cope with budget cuts, the research we’ve amassed over the last two decades strongly suggests that if we want students to excel in both the short and long term, both academically and behaviorally, the arts are not an expendable part of education.

    You Can Help Guide Europe's Space Science Program

    If you've got opinions about space exploration, the European Space Agency (ESA) would like to hear them.
    ESA officials are asking the public which questions the agency should tackle with "Voyage 2050," its space science program for the 2035-2050 timeframe.
    “We wish to encourage a sense of ownership and involvement in the space science program with our public, and so we want to hear everyone’s views and choose our next set of missions in an open and transparent way," ESA Director of Science Günther Hasinger said in a statement Monday (March 4).
    The request for public input marks a first for ESA, officials added in the statement.
    You don't have to be an expert to contribute. In fact, you don't even have to live in Europe; the opportunity is open to everyone around the world over the age of 16, from today through the end of June. To participate, or to learn more, go to the survey site here.
    "This consultation represents an exciting opportunity for European space science," Hasinger said. "We will be looking at what we can accomplish in the future, and that means we particularly encourage young people to share their views. After all, they are the ones who will work on and benefit from these missions."
    Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate) is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

    Is Your Child An Orchid Or A Dandelion? Unlocking The Science Of Sensitive Kids

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    Given supportive, nurturing conditions, highly reactive "orchid" children can thrive when tackling challenges, pediatrician and author Thomas Boyce says, especially if they have the comfort of a regular routine. Michael H/Getty Images hide caption
    toggle caption Michael H/Getty Images 
    Given supportive, nurturing conditions, highly reactive "orchid" children can thrive when tackling challenges, pediatrician and author Thomas Boyce says, especially if they have the comfort of a regular routine.
    Michael H/Getty Images
    Dr. Thomas Boyce, an emeritus professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, has treated children who seem to be completely unflappable and unfazed by their surroundings — as well as those who are extremely sensitive to their environments. Over the years, he began to liken these two types of children to two very different flowers: dandelions and orchids.
    Broadly speaking, says Boyce — who also has spent nearly 40 years studying the human stress response, especially in children — most kids tend to be like dandelions, fairly resilient and able to cope with stress and adversity in their lives. But a minority of kids, those he calls "orchid children," are more sensitive and biologically reactive to their circumstances, which makes it harder for them to deal with stressful situations.
    Like the flower, Boyce says, "the orchid child is the child who shows great sensitivity and susceptibility to both bad and good environments in which he or she finds herself or himself."
    Given supportive, nurturing conditions, orchid children can thrive — especially, Boyce says, if they have the comfort of a regular routine.
    "Orchid children seem to thrive on having things like dinner every night in the same place at the same time with the same people, having certain kinds of rituals that the family goes through week to week, month to month," he says. "This kind of routine and sameness of life from day to day, week to week, seems to be something that is helpful to kids with these great susceptibilities."
    Boyce's new book is The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive.
    Interview highlights:
    The Orchid and the Dandelion
    On the lab test he did to determine if a child is an orchid or a dandelion
    We made an effort to try to understand these individual differences between children in how they respond biologically to mild, common kinds of challenges and stressors, and the way we did that was we brought them into a laboratory setting. We sat them down in front of an examiner — a research assistant that they had not previously met — and we asked them to go through a series of mildly challenging tasks. These were things like recounting a series of digits that the examiner asked them to say and increasing that from first three to four to five digits; having them just engage in a conversation with this examiner, who might ask them about their birthday or presents or something about their family. That, in itself, is a challenge for a young child. Putting a drop of lemon juice on the tongue was another kind of challenge that was evocative of these changes in biological response. ...
    We measured their stress response using the two primary stress response systems in the human brain. [One was] the cortisol system, which is centered in the hypothalamus of the brain. This is the system that releases the stress hormone cortisol, which has profound effects on both immune function and cardiovascular functioning.
    And then the second stress response system is the autonomic nervous system, or the "fight-or-flight" system. This is the one that is responsible for the sweaty palms and a little bit of tremulousness, the dilation of the pupils, all of these things that we associate with the fight-or-flight response. So we were monitoring responsivity and both of those systems as the children went through these mildly challenging tasks. ...
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    We found that there were huge differences [among] children. There were some children at the high end of the spectrum, who had dramatic reactivity in both the cortisol system and the fight-or-flight system, and there were other children who had almost no biological response to the challenges that we presented to them.
    On how a child's responsivity to stressors can be connected to physical and emotional behavioral outcomes
    We find in our research that the same kinds of patterns of response are found for both physical illnesses, like severe respiratory disease, pneumonia, asthma and so on, as well as or more [in] emotional behavioral outcomes, like anxiety and depression and externalizing kinds of symptoms. So we believe that the same patterns of susceptibility that we find in the orchid child versus the dandelion child work themselves out not only for physical ailments but also for psychosocial and emotional problems. And we believe that the same kinds of underlying biological processes work for both. ...
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    We do know, for example, that these two stress response systems ... the cortisol system and the fight-or-flight system, the autonomic nervous system, both of those have powerful effects on the immune system, so they can alter the child's ability to build an immune defense against viruses and bacteria that he or she may be exposed to. And they have also powerful effects on the cardiovascular system, so [they] could eventually, in adult life, predispose to developing hypertension, high blood pressure or other kinds of cardiovascular risk.
    On how children's experiences can vary, even within the same family
    The experience of children within a given family, the siblings within a family — although they are being reared with the same parents in the same house in the same neighborhood — they actually have quite different kinds of experiences that depend upon the birth order of the child, the gender of the child, to some extent differences in genetic sequence. It is a way of talking about these dramatic differences that kids from different birth orders and different genders have within a given family.
    On pushing orchid kids to stretch to do new or difficult things
    I think that this is probably the most difficult parenting task in raising an orchid child. The parent of an orchid child needs to walk this very fine line between, on the one hand, not pushing them into circumstances that are really going to overwhelm them and make them greatly fearful, but, on the other hand, not protecting them so much that they don't have experiences of mastery of these kinds of fearful situations.
    Sam Briger and Seth Kelley produced and edited the audio of this interview. Bridget Bentz and Molly Seavy-Nesper adapted it for the Web.


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