It’s Never Too Early to Start Art

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Recently, a team of researchers from the University of Virginia combed through data about the educational trends in teaching kindergarten and first grade.  The perhaps obvious finding was that over the prior ten years there was more testing, more rigorous reading and math proficiency goals and generally higher expectations of incoming five-year-olds, leaving significantly less time to spend on self-directed and creative activities.  The most concerning findings were these:

  • Less music and art. The percentage of teachers who reported offering music every day in kindergarten dropped by half, from 34 percent to 16 percent. Daily art dropped from 27 to 11 percent.
  • Less “center time.” There were large, double-digit decreases in the percentage of teachers who said their classrooms had areas for dress-up, a water or sand table, an art area or a science/nature area.
  • Less choice.  Teachers who offered at least an hour a day of student-driven activities dropped from 54 to 40 percent.

Of course, we know how vital art education can be for even our youngest learners, which is why Art in Action puts so much emphasis on having a diverse kindergarten curriculum.  We introduce looking at art and talking about what they see as a way for them to start expressing individual ideas and listening to others.  We help them see that art happens all over the world in different ways.  And we let them play with art materials — learning, yes, but also finding a safe space for creative play.  

What we’ve found even more impactful, though, is that kindergarten is also the ideal time for parents to start lifelong habits of engagement with their child’s education.  Art in Action provides significant ways for parents to work directly with their children, classroom teachers and whole school communities.  Other studies show that deeper parent engagement leads to closing the achievement gap and better educational outcomes overall.

So in my opinion, what we need for our youngest learners is more art in the classroom, not less.  More time for play, not less. And more opportunities for parents to be active partners in learning.  We are proud that Art in Action helps reach those goals in more than six hundred kindergarten and first grade classrooms this year alone and grateful for the teachers, docents and donors who make that possible.  If you are interested in learning more about how to bring Art in Action to your K-1 classroom, click here.

Jeffrey Dollinger, Executive Director