How do you teach students to be more compassionate and make them better writers? Put on a puppet show. Give them crayons. Put on their favorite Spotify playlist—and here’s why. A new study reveals why the arts are so important for kids.

New research from the Rice Institute for Urban Research has found that arts-learning experiences benefit students in terms of reducing discipline rates, increasing compassion for others and improving writing achievement. The study also showed that these experiences improve school engagement and college aspirations.

photo: iStock 

The randomized controlled study involved 10,548 students who attended 42 schools across the Houston, Texas area. The students were enrolled in elementary and middle schools, which predominantly served low-income students of color. Nearly one-third of the schools in the district were lacking a full-time arts teacher.

With many schools nationwide minimizing arts education, the study’s results are an important reminder that the arts have an impact far beyond encouraging creativity. It’s also important to note that the addition of arts education did not come at the expense of traditional academics.

“It could have come out negative. It could have been, look, they did this extra stuff where they learned more in these other domains but their math scores went down, so here’s the tradeoff,” said Brian Kisida, one of the researchers from the University of Missouri who worked on the study. “We don’t see evidence of a tradeoff.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin



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