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On Saturday there will be a community-wide celebration of the arts hosted by nonprofit group Arts for Kids. This free event will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School. All are welcome. There will be a variety of fun, hands-on art activities that are appropriate for children and adults of all ages.
The grassroots Arts for Kids was formed about a year ago by parents, teachers and community members who feel passionately about supporting and increasing art education in our public schools, especially at the elementary level where no formal districtwide art curriculum and program currently exist. A dynamic art program is under consideration by the district and, if adopted, Arts for Kids hopes to help the district implement this curriculum by providing financial assistance through grant writing and fund-raising.
The addition of a formal art curriculum supported by several art specialists in the elementary grades will be a huge asset to the education of our students. Doing so will create a continuum of art instruction from kindergarten through 12th grade that will allow consistent, equitable and sequential instruction from year to year for all Juneau School District students. Perhaps most importantly, the inclusion of a comprehensive art curriculum will directly and positively effect each and every one of the five strategies the district has identified as focus areas necessary to improve student success in the Juneau School District. Those five strategies can be found on the district Web site www.jsd.k12.ak.us.
There has been extensive research on the many benefits of art education. A recent Google search for "support for art in education" resulted in a staggering 17 million hits. It didn't take me long to find a source that, with just one brief statement, addressed each and every one of these five strategies. The report "Young Children and the Arts: Making Creative Connections" states: "For all children, at all ability levels, the arts play a central role in cognitive, motor, language and social-emotional development. The arts motivate and engage children in learning, stimulate memory and facilitate understanding, enhance symbolic communication, promote relationships, and provide an avenue for building competence."
Plato, the great philosopher and educator of ancient Greece said, "I would teach children music, physics and philosophy; but most importantly music, for in the patterns of music and all arts are the keys to learning." What Plato so brilliantly recognized way back in 400 B.C. is the integral nature of learning and the importance of teaching children how to think and reason - not just to memorize facts and figures. To compartmentalize or omit subjects creates learning devoid of inspiration and ignores the concept of multiple intelligence leaving a large group of students at risk of failing or falling through the cracks. True knowledge and wisdom is gained by engaging the entire human spirit-mind, body, and soul. In doing so, we succeed in developing the whole of each child, helping them to realize all that they can be. As Lyndon B. Johnson said, "We believe, that is, you and I, that education is not an expense. We believe it is an investment." I believe it is an investment worth making, an investment in our future.
I encourage everyone to show their support for art education and for the importance of fully incorporating art into public school curriculum by attending Saturday's Celebrate the Arts event and by contacting your principals, School Board members and district officials to let them know you support art in our schools.
Sara Raster has lived in Juneau nine years and is the parent of an elementary and a middle school student.