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Child's brain development helped by music, art
By Maggie Fox
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Art and music are more than fun distractions for
students -- they just might make them smarter, a psychologist reported to a
major science conference here. Fine arts seem to fine-tune the brain and
help it focus on other kinds of learning, Martin Gardiner of Brown
University in Providence, R.I. told the American Association for the
Advancement of Science. And, he said, it seems to work for kids of all ages.
Gardiner reported in 1996 that first-grade students -- who are aged six and
seven -- showed improved reading and math skills when they got regular music
and art training, too.
"The learning of the kind I am looking at seems to occur not just in younger
childhood but in older children as well," Gardiner told a news conference.
The children in Gardiner's first study were taught using the Kodaly method
-- a systematic course of instruction in music that is structured much like
regular classroom work. Concepts like pitch rhythm and melody are taught.
Gardiner said he was now working with more first-graders in Minnesota,
fourth and fifth graders, who are aged nine to 11, in Rhode Island and
eighth graders, aged 13 and 14, in Vermont.
They are all being taught music, but in different types of programs,
He said the brain seems to be able to apply what is learned in one area,
music, to another such as math. Learning involved not just taking in
information, but training the brain in how to process it as well.
There were logical links between music and math, in particular, Gardiner
said. Both involved going up and down scales -- notes in music and numbers
But there was also probably something deeper involved.
"Learning from the arts can help build emotional skills," he said. "They
address parts of the psyche that can't be addressed in any other way."
Gardiner said he hoped to do a study in adults as well to see if the
learning advantages continued beyond childhood.
There must be an evolutionary advantage somehow, Gardiner said.
"The arts have had an important role from the beginning in providing ways to
express things," he said. "I am beginning to feel that it is no mistake that
the biggest thinkers in history had a greater role for the arts in their lives."
Gardiner said he would urge any school to include whatever arts training was
possible. "If we do not put them at the center of education I think we are
robbing ourselves of an important secret weapon," he said.