Fine Arts is defined in the Encarta Dictionary as being, “any art form, for example, painting, sculpture, architecture, drawing, or engraving, that is considered to have purely aesthetic value” (Encarta, 2004). Though this definition is used in relationship with the arts in the regular world, in regards to teaching, fine arts is defined as a subject beneficial, not essential, to the learning process and is often phased out because of lack of time, little learning potential, and no money. Fine arts is simply seen as painting and drawing, not a subject studied by an academic scholar.
What is missing in classrooms is the lack of teacher knowledge of the benefits of maintaining an art- based curriculum. Teachers “have very little understanding of the arts as disciplines of study. They think of the arts instruction as teacher-oriented projects used to entertain or teach other disciplines” (Berghoff, 2003, p. 12). Fine arts expand the boundaries of learning for the students and encourage creative thinking and a deeper understanding of the core subjects, which are language arts, math, science, and social studies. Teachers need to incorporate all genres of fine arts, which include, theater, visual art, dance, and music, into their lesson plans because the arts gives the students motivational tools to unlock a deeper understanding of their education. Teaching the arts is the most powerful tool that teachers can present in their classrooms because this enables the students to achieve their highest level of learning.
This study shows how one little change in the way students are taught through the arts can have a powerful impact on their learning achievements and understandings. Another study showed at-risk students who, for one year, participated in an art- based curriculum raised their standardized language arts test by an average of eight percentile points, 16 percentile points if enrolled for two years. Students not engaging in this form of activity did not show a change of percentile .
Due to the high volume of attention President Bush’s, No Child Left Behind Act, has required in schools, teaching the arts is left behind. Another reason for the lack of arts in the classroom author Victoria Jacobs explains, “Given the shrinking budgets of school districts around the country, art specialists and art programs have disappeared from many elementary schools” (Jacobs, 1999, p. 4). Fine arts are being seen as non-educational or an extra-curricular activity.
The arts can open the minds of students in ways mere reading and writing will never be able to accomplish. Yet, the point of teaching this subject is not to teach about the arts, but to teach through the arts. Jacobs explains,
Teaching though the arts requires students to engage in the act of creative art. For example they might draw a picture, write a poem, act in a drama, or compose music to further their understanding of concepts in content areas other than the arts. Teaching through the arts helps students experience concepts rather than simply discussing or reading them.
Teaching through the arts can be done in many different ways depending on the teacher’s interests, but truly is the only way to reinforce the students learning experience. In a time where budget cuts and new learning laws are being established, teachers need to be more informed and educated on the negative impacts of the loss of the fine arts programs.
Three, veteran teachers at a public elementary school did a case study which involved teaching through the arts. They believed “our students had to experience cycles of inquiry wherein they learned about the arts and through the arts, and that they needed to see teachers of different disciplines collaborate” (Berghoff, 2003, p. 2).