Art influences academic achievement

Art hanging in teacher Sam Knaak's classroom.

Sylvie Oang, The Freelancer

Art hanging in teacher Sam Knaak's classroom.

Sylvie Oang, Staff Writer

Art is a general term to describe a creative outlet people use to express themselves. It requires out-of-the-box thinking and uniqueness. At La Serna, students are fortunate enough to have multiple art classes–categorized as Visual, Performing, and Practical Arts–to choose from. Some classes include choir, band, photography, ceramics, wood shop, theater, and different levels of “regular” art classes. Students are deprived of imaginative, artistic thinking for the rest of their high school career after they finish their ten credits because of tight packed schedules for other required classes, as well as a lack of motivation to continue the art studies. The benefits of creative thinking, though, open up different varieties of learning and is overall a beneficiary class for many students to persue.

The Effects of Artistic Learning

Recent studies have shown that expressing creativity can enhance student’s learning capability and lead to improvement on school exams. Research from the University of California found that students with a high level of activity in art involvement did better on tests than those with low art involvement. The students who participated in art-related activities also watched less TV and participated more in their community, and were reported to be less bored during school. In 2005, the College Board showed the correlation between the number of art classes taken during high school and the subject test scores students received on their SAT. Both the verbal and math test score increased with the number of creative classes taken. Creative hobbies do not only improve academic scores, but also help with stress and relaxation. According to About Health, “You can use the benefits of art to express your creative side and drawing skills to reduce stress and get in touch with your feelings.” La Serna junior Morgan Boteilho agrees with this, saying that, “It is very calming for me to sit down with my sketch book, turn on some music, after a long day.”

Art in the Classroom

A brain is split into two parts: right and left. According to the article “What’s the Difference between the Right Brain and the Left Brain,” author Remy Melina states, “In general, the left hemisphere is dominant in language: processing what you hear and handling most of the duties of speaking. It’s also in charge of carrying out logic and exact mathematical computations. When retrieving a fact, your left brain pulls it from your memory.” The left side of your brain is the half that processes the logic and organization aspect, as well as helps with memorization and rule following. The right is what fuels creative thoughts and feelings, as well as visual understanding. In a balanced mind, there is a tendency to be equal in the right and left hemisphere, giving the best aspects of both sides; however, that it usually not the case. Most people are categorized as either “left-brained” or “right-brained,” showing more prominent traits of one side. Those who are visual learners in the classroom tend to show the characteristic of left side dominance, and those who are quick to understand when told verbally tend to be right dominant. To not exercise the creative side would limit learning to a specific style instead of broadening the possibilities.

Art at La Serna

The art classes at La Serna do their best to stimulate the right side of the brain, but not enough. Students are only required ten credits of art, which is equivalent to a year, to finish their A-G requirements and get into a college. The attempt to incorporate creativity into student life is there, but weakly advocated as important. This unbalanced level of academics and creativity is shown in the schedules of  La Serna students. Most students barely have enough room in their schedule for one art class during their four years because of the other academic requirements they must fulfill. The amount of money being funded towards art programs can be debated as not enough to sustain an engaging  class. The art program, according to art teacher Sam Knaak, has previously been given three times as much funding as it is receiving now, which shows the slow degradation of the creative classes with the addition to new academic classes.

The New Art History Class

However, the effort of combining more creative and critical-thinking skills is evident in the new art history class that will be offered during the 2015-2016 school year. This class is for those who want to learn and think critically on the pieces of many artists, instead of creating artwork. “I will definitely be taking the art history class during one of my years at La Serena,” said sophomore Victoria Genao. The addition of this class is replaceable for any studio art credit, and according to sophomore Piper Kilgore, “Great for those who do not think they express an artistic passion, but still need credit.”

With the academic standards rising high each year, art is seen as something that is secondary and is something not advocated enough for during students’ high school careers. The effort is being made, with the mandatory ten credits, but not prioritized enough. Through research and studies, it has been proven that the expression of creativity helps not only with continuing studies, but it helps make overall better people. High schools should shed more light on the importance of the arts and how they benefit students.