Artsy classes foster creativity

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Bird is the word: Two Lake Forest Country Day School Upper School students work on art projects in one of two art classrooms. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

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Accredited by the American Montessori Society, the Montessori Children's House of North Barrington blends freedom and structure fluidly for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Nature, music and art are all a part of the curriculum and a strong parental involvement is encouraged for the success of each student.

"In our Montessori classrooms we feel that exploring and cultivating the artistic development and awareness of children is a fundamental aspect of their learning experience," said Anna P. Perry, executive director, Seton Montessori Institute and Lab Schools. "We encourage creative expression in many different ways and with different types of media. Our students spend curricular time each year studying the great artistic masters of the Western world, including Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Klee and Mondrian, to name a few."

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Lake Forest Country Day School (LFCDS) is steeped in history, with roots reaching back to 1888. A rich character-building education for students is still a major part of the school ethos. Putting the word ‘art' in the word ‘smart' is one of the ways that LFCDS fosters the well-rounded intellectual development of each student.

"Students who express themselves through a variety of artistic media are using different parts of the brain and they develop a fuller repertoire of creative thinking strategies that they can apply to solve both academic and real-world problems," said Michael Robinson, head of school, Lake Forest Country Day School.

"When a culture dies, it is their art that is left to tell their human story. We can learn a great deal about any group of people, their relationships, and their lives through the study of their art," said Scott A. Baeseman, fine arts department chair, music educator and choral director, Lake Forest Country Day School. "In addition to teaching our students how to read and write music at LFCDS, we teach them how to interpret music while relating personally to many styles and genres. We begin teaching our youngest students how to be still and absorb various musical elements while listening to a piece of music. By the time students are in our upper level classes, they learn to interpret music as a symbol and mirror of society. They learn to relate directly to music by applying what they know of a history and culture and what they intuitively feel within their souls."

LFCDS places an emphasis on teaching children to be bright and upstanding and an education that includes the arts is a major part of that. For example, with concerts, exhibits and performances being presented throughout the year, some of the distinctive programs that are offered to students are: beginning and symphonic band instruction, choral music, and studio and performing arts.

"Developing an appreciation of the richness and beauty of artistic traditions from different cultures has value well beyond academic learning. When students study art, they are learning the ways people across the globe and throughout human history have responded emotionally to their world, which helps them learn to question and find meaning in their own experience," said Beth Black, director of enrollment and marketing, Lake Forest Country Day School. "Social and emotional learning is fundamental to success and happiness."

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For older students, the Chicago Academy for the Arts (CAA), A John F. Kennedy Center National School of Distinction, is an exciting option for an education in college preparatory academics as well as professional arts training. High school kids can take classes in dance, film and writing, music, visual arts and theater as well as sharpen their science and math skills.

"An arts education can be the foundation that helps young people become critical and imaginative thinkers and doers. The arts teach students to consider that there is more than one right answer and that there are multiple solutions to a problem," said Pamela Jordan, head of school at Chicago Academy for the Arts. "This type of divergent thinking naturally fosters collaboration, effective communication and innovation-all critical capacities that are essential for success."

Jordan goes on to say, "The arts inspire students to master skills and push themselves beyond their perceived limitations. Studying with professional educators and artists inspires students to engage deeply in their academic and arts subjects and to excel in unimaginable ways."

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