The arts have been proven to enhance the process of learning in children. The neurological systems that they enhance include our integrated sensory, attentional, cognitive, emotional, and motor capabilities. These are – in reality – the driving forces for all other learning. These neurological benefits are in addition to how we have observed the arts increasing self-discipline, aesthetic awareness, cultural exposure, creativity and emotional expression. “At Columbia University, Judith Burton’s study of more than 2000 children found that those in an arts curriculum were far superior in creative thinking, self-concept, problem solving, self-expression, risk taking and cooperation than those who were not (Burton et al., 1999).”
The Studio Garden arts-based curriculum builds across multiple disciplines and modalities to maximize diverse sensorial and aesthetic experiences. As artists and educators, we are firm believers that the arts are intrinsically transformative, valuable and deeply nourish the human soul. Children are natural creators. They explore and experience the world through their senses and creativity. That knowledge in and of itself has powerful educational applications. The neurological impact of the arts upon children brains helps us more deeply understand that regardless of an individual’s artistic trajectory – the fundamental act of creating in its many forms substantially improves how a person thinks and applies him/herself in any area of life.
Eric Jenson author of Arts with the Brain in Mind, identifies the success of other arts based educational models like Waldorf schools, one of the fastest growing and long established elementary educational models in the world. For over 50 years, students from Waldorf elementary schools double and triple out perform public school students on national testing, and Waldorf boasts graduates who become highly level executive and entrepreneurs as well as accomplished artists like Oscar-winning actor Paul Newman, Nobel laureate and novelist Saul Bellow and legendary dancer, Mikhail Baryshnanikov. All of this is accomplished through a deep curricular commitment to the power of the art to teach and mold young minds to their greatest potential.
What Waldorf does in the primary grades, The Studio Garden is designed to accomplish at the toddler and preschool levels. Neurologically, these are the years of greatest neuroplasticity and hence the greatest long term rewards can be realized by investing in an arts based education in early childhood.
In the early years of childhood 700 new neurons are created every second. These neural networks are reinforced through a process of stimulation and positive reinforcement called “serve and return”. The more active this process the denser the neural network that will form. These networks form the foundation for all future learning. Arts based learning creates richer and more intricate neural networks because of the diverse areas those creative processes stimulate in the brain. Ongoing positive reinforcement of these processes in early childhood means that the density of those neural networks will grow and be preserved throughout childhood and provide a stronger foundation for academic and personal growth. An investment of an arts based education in the early childhood years can yield infinite benefits because of this powerful period of neurological development.
The Studio Garden is a licensed Music Together school – Music Together is a nationally and internationally renown organization for early childhood music education utilizing a music and movement approach to music development for young children. Now in its 30th year, Music Together pioneered the concept of a research-based, developmentally appropriate early childhood music curriculum that emphasizes and facilitates adult involvement. Music Together recognizes that all children are musical and that every child needs a stimulating, supportive music environment to not only achieve basic music competence but to experience the wonderful human capacity for music making. The curriculum helps develop every child’s music competence by encouraging the actual experiencing of music rather than the learning of concepts or information about music. This is a critical difference in fully supporting children in making music and utilizing the innate musical skills that they can do before they can intellectually understand how or why they can do them. Maximizing music making in children and families not only provides the best musical development but provides that optimal neurological benefits, including building critical pre-reading skills.
In addition to offering a nationally leading music curriculum, The Studio Garden’s arts integrated curriculum engages in diverse disciplines in visual arts, story-telling/theater, and movement/dance. We utilize multiple processes and layer different levels of complexity across all subject areas of the class. We find that this allows maximum exploration, sensorial engagement, skill development, and intellectual challenge as well as emotional and aesthetic satisfaction. Through this full integration, model we seek to give our students the highest benefits artistically, academically, and neurologically. We have collaborated and continue to partner with leaders in arts education and early childhood education that contribute to our curriculum and teacher training. We also work with professional artists who create works specifically for our school and provide opportunities to our families to more deeply explore different disciplines and processes.