Why are arts experiences important in the early years of life? How do music, dance, drama, and visual art contribute to growth and learning? How can parents and educators foster young children's creativity?
The Art to Heart series explores these questions, making a persuasive case that music, dance, drama, literature, and the visual arts are essential components of early childhood education, not frills. Through eight half-hour programs hosted by actress Ana Ortiz, the series provides parents and preschool and elementary educators with information they can use to better understand the children in their lives, with ideas for arts activities, and with inspiration to make play and creativity a part of every day's activities.
To create Art to Heart, a KET crew traveled around the United States, taping arts activities in schools, child care and Head Start centers, community art centers, museums, and homes and interviewing leading researchers in the field of learning and the arts, along with teachers, parents, and artists who put theory into practice. But the central focus is on children themselves-from babies playing in paint to young ballerinas, painters, and violinists-exploring the world and expressing their feelings and ideas with enthusiasm, exuberance, and joy.
The Art to Heart project was funded in part by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support was provided by the W. Paul and Lucille Caudill Little Arts Endowment for KET.
This overview of the series introduces the arts as a way young children communicate their thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Parents and children sing, move to a beat, and read stories at the Wolf Trap Baby Artsplay class; babies play in paint at the East Tennessee State Child Care Center; Cyndi Young and her daughter Georgia make art together at home; educators from the Daviess County (KY) schools explain why they decided to give all 1st graders keyboarding lessons; and parents and children explore the Art Sparks interactive gallery at Louisville’s Speed Art Museum. Harvard researcher Howard Gardner explains his theory of multiple intelligences.
Segments show how visual arts activities can foster literacy, self-esteem, problem-solving skills, and parent-child bonding. Fathers and preschoolers work together to create concrete steppingstones at a rural Kentucky Head Start center; two St. Louis schools implement ideas from the art-focused Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education; students in Louisville create bird paintings inspired by the work of John James Audubon; preschoolers at Philadelphia’s Settlement Music School learn a visual “alphabet,” and youngsters in Philadelphia and Washington, DC explore books and art at museums. Martin Rollins, associate curator of education at Louisville’s Speed Art Museum, explains the stages of drawing development.
Music activities—from singing to writing songs to learning to play an instrument—help build physical and language skills, self-confidence, and cooperative behaviors. A music teacher at Philadelphia’s Settlement Music School explains the importance of helping young children discover their singing voices; a couple in Lexington, KY sing with their infant; artist-in-residence Victor Cockburn introduces Massachusetts kindergartners to the fine art of songwriting; music therapists use music to build preschool skills; and classical musician Keith Cook teaches inner-city youngsters in Louisville to play the violin.
What’s the difference between movement and dance? Why are both important and enjoyable experiences for young children? This program shows a wide variety of dance and movement activities—from African and Appalachian dance to ballet and modern dance. In St. Louis, youngsters learn a dance from Mali, “ballet babies” explore the stories of dance, and parents and children have fun with music and movement in a class at the Center of Creative Arts. Traditional dance brings together all ages in Berea, KY; youngsters at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia learn a Mexican hat dance in honor of Cinco de Mayo; and children in Louisville learn to communicate self-confidence and cultural pride through movement and dance. Movement education specialist Rae Pica explains why it’s important to pay attention to movement basics
Children are natural dramatists, and activities that fuel their imagination and ability to make believe foster creative and academic skills. Inspired by a painting of Lewis and Clark, 3rd graders in Louisville take on roles of explorers and Native Americans; mother and neuroscientist Lise Eliot explains the connection between reading and brain development; teaching artists Kofi Dennis and Ingrid Crepeau use books and puppets to help children bring stories to life in the classroom; and children at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center in Washington, DC use artifacts, storytelling, and dramatic play to connect ideas in science and history.
An environment that fosters creativity is more than bricks and mortar. Materials, attitude, and teacher/parent involvement are also important to providing a comforting yet challenging atmosphere. At the Key Learning Community in Indianapolis, Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences is put into practice. Reggio Emilia educators explain the importance of providing a variety of art materials. Parents and children explore two museums created just for children—the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia—and Louisville artist Dionisio Ceballos and his daughter Emilia draw each other.
Can the arts help teach any subject? Why are arts activities in early life beneficial to future learning? What makes a good art teacher? This program explores a variety of aspects relating to the arts-learning connection. Louisville 3rd graders learn about recycling and pollution through “Eco-Drama”; neuroscientist Lise Eliot explains how music, movement, and visual stimulation help prime the brain for language development and future learning; Dr. George Szekely of the University of Kentucky talks about teaching art; and Slavko Milekic discusses his interactive museum software for children.
Both parents and educators stress the importance of making the arts part of young children’s everyday experience. At Gateway Child Development Center in Anderson, IN, the arts facilitate learning for children with a variety of abilities and needs. Louisville father and artist Victor Sweatt emphasizes the importance of parents spending time with their young children. Visits to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Reach Out and Read, founded by Boston pediatrician Barry Zuckerman, explore how they encourage parents to read to young children. At a library branch in Lexington, KY, an arts project called Bilingual Boogie Bees helps bring neighbors and cultures together. And movement specialist Rae Pica urges parents not to overschedule young children, but to leave time for play.