Kids & Music (education)

There is a growing body of evidence that arts instruction can significantly strengthen students’ academic performance. The latest research, involving first and second graders at two Pawtucket RI public elementary schools, produced strong evidence that sequential, skill building instruction in arts and music, integrated with the rest of the curriculum, can greatly improve children’s performance in reading and math. The study was a collaborative effort of The Music School (in Providence RI), arts specialists in the Pawtucket school system, and the Kodaly Center of America.

In its first year, the study included ninety-six students, ages 5-7 in eight first-grade classrooms. Four “test arts” classrooms (two each in two schools) participated in a music and visual art program that emphasized sequential skill development and that integrated music and visual art with the rest of the curriculum. Students in the “test arts” classrooms received one hour of music and one hour of visual art per week. Four control classrooms (two in each school) received the school system’s standard visual arts and musical training (one hour of visual arts and forty-five minutes of music in alternating weeks).

After seven months, all students were given standardized first-grade Metropolitan Achievement Tests. Martin Gardiner, research director at The Music School, compared the results with kindergarten achievement test scores for the 83% of students for whom kindergarten scores were available. He found that, although students in the test arts classes had started behind the control students in percentage of students at or above the national average kindergarten Metropolitan Achievement Test scores, they had caught up to statistical equality in reading, and had pulled ahead in mathematics. 77% of those in the “test arts” classes were now at grade level or above in mathematics, as compared to 55% of those in the control groups.

The study was continued the following year in four “test arts” and five control classrooms in second grade at the same schools. Achievement tests were again given after seven months. As in the first year, test and control groups were equal on reading, and “test arts” pupils were ahead on math. The percentage of students at or above grade level in second-grade math was highest in those with two years of the “test arts” program, lower in those with one year, and lowest in those who no “test arts” participation.

Gardiner, a biophysicist, and colleagues theorize that “learning arts skills forces mental ‘stretching’ useful to other areas of learning: the maths learning advantage [found in this study] could, for example, reflect the development of mental skills such as ordering, and other elements of thinking on which mathematical learning at this age also depends.”

The “test arts” program (called the “Start With Arts Program”), developed by music teacher Donna Jeffreys and colleagues, was designed to integrate the areas of art and music with classroom subjects such as reading and math, while maintaining the integrity of the arts curricula. The collaborative team believes that the keys to the improvements in math and reading are the sequential skill-building arts curricula and the integration with the rest of the curriculum.

Kids & Sports

7 Good Reasons to Get Your Child Involved in Sports

Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle
Making exercise a part of your child’s life teaches your child the importance of fitness. This, along with proper nutrition, plays a vital role in maintaining health. Children need physical activity every day and participation in sports helps fill this need. With today’s wealth of video games and increasing computer literacy, daily physical activity is often times forgotten. Getting your child involved with sports helps them make exercise a part of their lifestyle and increases their chance of a being a healthier adult.

Promote Self Esteem
When a child realizes that they are getting better and better at their sport, they can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. Choosing a sport your child can grow and improve in gives your child an opportunity to build self-esteem. Together, with positive reinforcement from you their parent, they will gain confidence and have a more positive view of themselves.

Learn Goal Setting 
I’m sure you’ll agree goal setting and success go hand in hand. Participation in sports gives your child a fun, practical way to learn about goal setting. They’ll see, experience, and learn about how goal setting works. If your child’s coach doesn’t cover goal setting, that’s okay! You as a parent can sit down with your child and set goals. By assisting your child in developing this skill, you give them a better chance at succeeding in life.

Learn and Experience Teamwork 
How often have you read a help wanted ad where the employer wants a “team player” or a candidate that “works well with others”? I see it all the time. How much more valuable are you as an employee when you can put differences aside and get the job done? Sports teach children about teamwork and about how their actions affect other people. If they can’t learn to work together with teammates while playing a sport they enjoy, how will they be able to work with co-workers they may or may not like while performing a job they may or may not enjoy? This is an important lesson to learn. Encourage your child to be a team player and, as a sports parent, keep tabs on whether or not your words and actions promote this trait in your child.

Develop Time Management Skills 
Adding extracurricular activities to your child’s schedule encourages development of and time management and prioritization skills. Teach your child that taking care of responsibilities, such as school work and cleaning up after themselves, comes first. This gives them their first taste of prioritization. Next, help your child formulate a plan which enables them to efficiently handle their responsibilities while still leaving time for sports practices and competitions. For example, show your child how working on homework instead of playing outside during their after-school program helps them finish their homework in time for practice each day. Then go ahead and make that part of your plan.

Learn About Dealing with Adversity
Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has problems. How well you handle these mistakes and problems directly affects happiness and quality of life. Many people “get in a slump” and can’t get out of it. Others continue making the same mistakes over and over again. In sports, we always try to minimize errors, but we’re human. Mistakes happen. Even professional athletes make bad choices and make bad plays, but it’s not the mistake that counts. What you do from that point forward carries much more significance. If your child learns how to deal with adversity, errors, and challenges in sports, chances are, they’ll be able to translate that skill to real life and effectively minimize mistakes and/or bad decisions as well as competently recover from set backs.

Have Fun! 
Positive experiences play an essential role in raising a happy, healthy human being. Sports provide numerous opportunities for positive experiences both for your child as an individual, and for your family as a whole. “Sports parents” are blessed with the chance to watch their child have fun while learning and developing as an athlete and as a human being.