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Embrace the Arts

By Nina FL Markham

This afternoon we had our IB Art Vernissage, one of my favorite IB traditions. Initially it feels like something so different from what I do every day with the same students and possibly that is why it appeals to me so. It also takes place directly outside of my classroom in the student lounge, and I enjoy the anticipation created by observing the students and our IB art teacher prepare for the event.
At our school, the IB art program has a reputation of being difficult and a potential drain on one’s GPA. However, my daughter, along with several other students, decided to embark on the two-year journey of IB art as part of the diploma curriculum. The students are expected to select a theme early on in their pilgrimage towards becoming artists. The artwork they produce over the next two years is to relate to their theme.
I consider the displayed work and I am impressed. None of these IB art students plans a career in art, and few among them would have experienced painting on a canvas, creating a clay sculpture, or working in a host of other mediums without the benefit of this class.
Every one of them is articulate in explaining how each piece of art relates to the chosen theme and is visibly invested in his or her work. Of course, they are engaged in an entirely different way than when explaining the role of light-dependent reactions in photosynthesis. Their effort and hours spent toiling away in the art room have paid off! One teacher exclaims, “Now I know what they do tucked away in the art room! I've always wondered what goes on for hours and hours in there.”
Appropriate “oohs” and “aahs” and nods of approval exude from the group of spectators circulating through the show. I sense pride and accomplishment from our students.
There is plenty of literature to support the value of art in education. An article I recently read refers to skills attained from participating in the arts, including:
• Creativity
• Confidence
• Problem Solving
• Perseverance
• Focus
• Non-Verbal Communication
• Ability to receive constructive feedback
• Collaboration
• Dedication
• Accountability
Through taking this IB course, our students have gained an actual skill set that will be valuable to them in all aspects of life. As the students present their work, it is clear that these skills have, indeed, been acquired over the course of their artistic odyssey.
If you know someone deliberating on whether to take an art, music, dance, or drama class, encourage them to do so! Future IB students, don’t steer away from the Group VI (The Arts) subjects!
In my own life, the very skills listed above became integral to who I am through my participation in the orchestra program in my high school, and later, by playing with a symphony while in college and graduate school. Additionally, my world was enlarged through this exposure to music, composers, and various artists. The weekly rehearsals provided an appropriate diversion from my classes and research, allowing me to return fresh and prepared to progress even further having stepped away for a bit. Plus, it was just plain fun to be part of the creation of beautiful music!
How about you? What are the benefits that you have experienced from participating in The Arts? Share below!
Strauss, V. (2013, January 21). "Top 10 skills children learn from the arts." Washington Post. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from
Nina Markham is IB Biology and General Science Teacher at The American International School of Rotterdam.

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