Team Hippocampus' Response

What are some ways in which participation in the arts can improve attention? This week’s reading provided convincing evidence that when the arts are incorporated in the learning environment, a child's attention is higher. Since there exists such a variety of art form, the the networks underlying participation in a particular medium, can improve attention based on what networks are enlisted with participation. Mills and Mills performed several studies in 2000 in which they observed the benefits in music training, specifically for attention. (Posner and Rothbart, 2007, p.118). Smith (2009) illustrates the importance of enlisting kindergarden students to participate in symphonic organization, by exploring tonal patterns and rhythm. It comes as not surprise that participation in this type of activity is proposed to enhance the neural circuitry underlying literacy. Vocal prosody is linked so closely with stressing intonation and rhythm. Further, the results of a three-year consortium by the Dana Foundation (2009) found that early instruction in the performing arts improved cognitive functioning visible in brain imaging. Further, Posner, Rothbart, Sheese, and Kieras (2008), present five elements: 1) Appreciation of art relates to pleasure in producing that art, 2) Appreciation of an art form relates to general aesthetic interest, 3) High interest is linked to high motivation, 4) Motivation sustains attention, 5) High sustained attention on conflict tasks improves cognition (p. 5-6). Team Hippocampus agrees and identified a number of examples from our classroom experiences that support and help us understand the connection. Arts add novelty to learning environment. Allowing for frequent changes in the configuration of the room has been shown to improve attention according to Zentall (1983). Also, art is intentionally designed -- in most cases at least -- to elicit an emotional response. And if students are able to make emotional connections with art in support of learning-- personal, family, ethnic -- that can make the learning more personal. Building on these personal connections may help learners engage more fully. Posner and Rothbart (2007) highlight the value that Montessori methods have placed in visual art participation. Montessori schools have reported children who engage in working with "interesting material, as showing greater calmness, joy, affection, and respect for others." This would indicate that BTT-1 is inherent in the participation of visual arts, as children are more joyous, and attentional networks are able to engage, as a result of the calm resulting from creative play and learning. Our team also discussed the ideas that arts are a perfect venue repeated rehearsal of learning, important for Brain-Targeted Teaching Model, BT-4, which focuses on teaching for mastery. Current brain research supports the fact that students need time for repeated rehearsals during learning as well as incorporation of creativity by utilizing visual arts, music, and movement (Hardiman, 2003, p.61). We suggest that as students are learning information in multiple formats and their acquisition of that knowledge improves. Using arts for mastery of learning also helps students with different learning styles and arts is also easily differentiated. Dana Foundation (2009). Learning, Arts, and the Brain. The Dana Consortium Report. Retrieved from Posner, M., Rothbart, M., Sheese, B. E., & Kieras, J. (2008). How art training influences cognition. Learning, Arts, and the Brain, The Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition. New York: The Dana Foundation, p. 1-10.