Iowa school focuses on arts, preparing students for 21st century jobs.

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The arts in education have been hotly debated for decades, always under threat of being cut. But today administrators are finding it much more difficult as data proves the positive impact an arts education has on child development. Leslie Nolte, head of school for The Iowa Conservatory in Iowa City gives us her thoughts on the new school year.

Leslie Nolte, The Iowa Conservatory

While it’s true arts programs increase engagement and attendance at schools, the benefits go far beyond what may be considered a fun school activity says Nolte. In reality, they prepare students for 21st century skills, help them with problem solving, and allow them to think creatively. With the proliferation of AI in the workplace, human empathy and creativity will be even more in demand.

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Iowa arts

Research shows students active in the arts from early childhood through high school excel in test scores, attendance, are better engaged in school, and excel at empathy. According to Nolte, executives at Google desire people with arts backgrounds. In a 2009 Chorus Impact Study, parents reported their child gained more self confidence, improved in self discipline, and improved their own problem solving skills. Sadly, the arts to this day struggle to get funding.

What can parents do?

Many schools, Iowa included, have seen cuts in arts programs and/or staff reductions in these areas. At a time when we need more creative thinking, that an arts education provides, we’re scaling back. So, what can parents do? Nolte recommends parents encourage their students to enroll in available group arts programs in their schools. If that’s not available, many communities have choirs, community theater programs, or group arts programs that can be joined.

Arts aren’t just great for creative skills, but also notably improve mental health says Nolte. She’s seen a decline in mental health in recent years and says the pandemic made things far worse. The arts reverse mental health challenges, and are the antidote to the loneliness problem we’re currently struggling with.