Extra Credit

Arts education is integral to student achievement

Justin Skidmore and Olivia Morris rehearse a scene from “Voices of the Mountain,” a collection of one-act skits written by Van Junior and Senior High School students. This skit is called “The Darkness 1,” written by Skylar Stark. It also features actors Mariah Plante and Tyler Eldridge.
Justin Skidmore and Olivia Morris rehearse a scene from “Voices of the Mountain,” a collection of one-act skits written by Van Junior and Senior High School students.

When I first came to the Daily Mail in February, all news on the education front involved lingering problems from the water crisis at schools and the closing of Kawnaha County’s three public day cares.

To tell you the truth, it was kind of depressing.

Then, later in March, I was asked to write an advance for a collection of one-act plays reacting to the water crisis written by high school students from Van Junior and Senior High School.

Not only were these plays about complex issues most of us are still trying to figure out, they were all from the perspective of school-aged kids expressing pain and frustration with a helpless situation they could do nothing about.

As someone who went to a private school without any real arts education, I feel like I missed out, but I have found art provides a much-needed outlet for young people — sometimes an escape.

Not only is art a means for people to express themselves, it is an integral part of receiving a well-rounded education.

Studies have shown that the arts are associated with gains in math, reading, critical thinking and communication skills as well as improvements to motivation, concentration and confidence.

“Today’s generation is a generation of cellphone kids,” said Leah Turley, founder of the Appalachian Artists Collective. “Their ability to speak is lessened because of a reliance on technology. I think theater is the answer to that.”

For some kids, the arts can help them communicate. For less-fortunate kids, it enriches their lives with cultural experience and puts them on the same level as children of affluent or aspiring parents who expose them to arts at an early age.

Art also is something that brings people together, something I think is desperately needed in a culture that seems to give too much focus to the things that divide.

Thankfully, their is push from local, state and federal education officials to encourage the incorporation of arts in schools.