In 2019, Muskan, a young poet involved with Slam Out Loud (SOL) while performing at the TEDxGatewaySalon Platform shared how she was often told by her parents and teachers that “the Arts are for people who are not hardworking.”
Much like Muskan, most of us, are no stranger to the narrative that art has no ‘real’ value and should at best, be indulged in as a hobby. Both research and recent shifts in pedagogical techniques however, argue otherwise. Through brain imaging technologies, neuroscientists across the globe are now able to show the physical changes that occur in the brain when one contemplates over or indulges in art. For instance, did you know that a creatively inspired brain depicts lower levels of cortisol which is the biological indicator for stress?! Educators too, have noticed radical changes in student behaviour and performance on integrating art and Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) for children. The Economic Development Quarterly offers an insight that children who received art education showed an 80% increase in creativity and levels of social skills. The ‘National Endowment for the Arts’ observed that students partaking in arts courses had higher grade point averages and were five times more likely to graduate compared to their peers.
For students studying in low-income schools, art-based SEL is crucial in how it allows space to foster expression. This, in turn, is essential to ensure that children are empowered to break their cycle of negative outcomes. The perspective that art-based SEL is especially climacteric for low-income students is supported by intensive research. For instance, in a study led by the ‘Kennedy Center’s Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) Program’, it was found that integrating the arts had a profound impact on closing achievement gaps, particularly for students from low-income families.
But how do Art and SEL communicate with each other? How does art amplify the benefits of SEL? Why is this especially crucial for students from disadvantaged communities? And how do we begin to employ these methods in the backdrop of a COVID stricken world and its myriad challenges?
In the wake of the Covid pandemic, 1.5 Billion children across the world are unable to access classrooms. From the uncertainty of completing the academic year to larger systemic issues like the digital divide- students have been struggling to learn. Learner’s loneliness has steadily been rising, translating into high levels of anxiety and an inability to focus on information and retain it. With an internal chaos brewing within children, how can we inspire them to continue learning from home until we first cater to their individual well-being?