A focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) has gained momentum in recent years, sometimes at the expense of the arts and humanities.
Yet the evidence is clear that movement, art, music, and drama all support better learning and thinking. Taught separately, art has a positive impact on learning. But when art is incorporated into the teaching of all disciplines, it weaves a connection of meaning, beauty, and practicality into everything the student learns. Music brings soul to math, art brings life to geometry, woodworking and sculpting bring purpose to engineering. Children are intuitively creative. When they discover beauty and connections in the world, they become eager learners and forward-thinking problem-solvers. Not only are their learning experiences more comprehensive, but their lives are richer for it.
There are clear relationships between art, music, science, and mathematics. Music and math, for example, are inseparable. The interweaving of art and science can be seen in a geometric representation of a mathematical concept or any two dimensional representation of a three dimensional world. Space, time, dimension, and perspective, are all words that could be used in a class discussion about art or physics. Artistic and scientific creativity are not dissimilar.
Students’ observational skills are strengthened as they make logical connections between the arts and sciences. Their experiences of discovery help them not only deeply understand the science they are learning but also revel in the beauty of the structure and connections within our world. Art helps develop keen observation skills, and in turn, an eagerness to ask the right questions which brings a real-world relevance to the learning of science.
Art engages all the senses in the learning process, not just the intellect. As a result, the inner life of the student is nourished and much deeper learning results. Math, science, language arts, history, and foreign languages should not simply be subjects to be read about and tested. They should be experienced through music, dance, drama, writing, literature, handcrafts, woodworking, painting, and clay modeling. Through these experiences, students cultivate their intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual capacities, along with academic skills.
In the words of the late author Toni Morrison, Nobel laureate and Pulitzer prize winner:
“Narrative has never been merely entertainment for me. It is, I believe, one of the principal ways in which we absorb knowledge.”
Therese Lederer, Enrollment Director, Housatonic Valley Waldorf School. Waldorf Education worldwide is celebrating 100 years this Fall, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Housatonic Valley Waldorf School.