In celebration of California Arts Education Week (Sep 8-14), this week’s posts will all focus on arts education.
I found this post to be very interesting when I initially read it back in January. It’s worth revisiting this week. Lisa Phillips (author of “The Artist Edge: 7 Skills Children Need To Succeed In An Increasingly Right Brain World”) details her thoughts on ten skills that children learn in arts classes.
Let’s take a look at #8, Collaboration. A student can, of course, learn to collaborate in other areas, like team sports. But if you take a typical theater or music class and examine it, you’ll see that collaboration is woven into the very fabric of the art itself. I believe there’s a significant distinction between collaboration (in the arts) and teamwork (in sports). Both involve putting something larger (the show, the recital, the big game) before yourself, of course, but how you get there is very different.
Whereas team sports like football follow a prescribed set of rules and all teammates must work together to win a game, mounting a play requires a different sort of collaborative approach because the play is different every time. There are, simply, no actual rules. Common practices? Yes – but not rules. It takes a different skill-set to navigate a process in which no rules apply, versus playing a sport in which one is penalized for not following the rules.
A school band learns new music every year; they don’t play the same piece repeatedly, and each piece is open to interpretation. Again, no real rules.
And look no further than the dance world to see a total lack of rules.
I think this lack of rules is at the core of how the collaborative skill-set is learned differently in the arts than in other classes. Lisa Phillips says it quite well in her post, “When a child has a part to play in a music ensemble, or a theater or dance production, they begin to understand that their contribution is necessary for the success of the group. Through these experiences children gain confidence and start to learn that their contributions have value even if they don’t have the biggest role.”