Rethinking the arts and young children

UNIVERSITY PARK—Gail Boldt, associate professor of education and affiliate faculty member in women’s studies, has co-edited a new book that explores the important role that the arts play in the classroom. The book is a teacher-education text titled “Young Children, Pedagogy and the Arts: Ways of Seeing.”

Both Boldt and her co-editor, Felicity McArdle from Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, believe that a heavy emphasis on various arts including visual arts, movement and dance, and music as part of a strong, integrated literacy approach can benefit children in the classroom.

“In this book, we brought together work by scholar-practitioners who are all interested in rethinking the arts and young children,” said Boldt. “They share a commitment to research that enriches the curriculum and the learning experiences of all young children and their teachers. They also share the conviction that learning is enhanced through a curriculum that has a strong focus on the arts.”

cymbals'

A child plays the cymbals during music class.

Image: Penn State

Boldt added that as a research method, the arts can prove a powerful means for generating rich data that is usable by teachers and researchers.

“As several chapters in the book demonstrate, working with children engaged in artistic modes of exploration, expression or production can make learning and thinking visible in a direct and immediate way not available through more traditional research methods,” said Boldt. “Additionally, many of the chapters demonstrate how the arts can expand ways of experiencing, knowing and communicating the world and ourselves, and can challenge more traditional notions of literacy, learning and learners.”

Boldt hopes this book will convey to future teachers the crucial role that the arts play in the classroom.

“When the arts are pushed to the periphery of education policies and practices, students are denied artistic methods and modes to develop and articulate their knowledge, experiences, feelings and perceptions,” said Boldt. “Likewise, teachers are denied artistic ways of teaching and learning that can in fact enhance literacy and numeracy outcomes, which are so much the focus of the current testing craze. Teachers are reporting nationwide that with reading and math as the primary focus of high stakes testing, the arts have been largely eliminated from school curriculum, and yet the evidence is mounting that this narrowing of curriculum is producing worse outcomes for student learning across multiple domains.”

Several Penn Staters contributed chapters to the book. Boldt co-authored a chapter with Kortney Sherbine, a doctoral candidate in the College of Education. Christine Marmé Thompson, a professor of art education in the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture also wrote a chapter. The book was published in April by Routledge.

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Last Updated July 15, 2013