Health Benefits of the Arts for Students/Children

Among the many health benefits for students and children who are exposed to and experience the arts in their lives and school curriculum are higher grades, better test scores, less absenteeism (which leads to less hunger), less disciplinary infractions, improved social and emotional skills, and improved motor skills.

Arts in General Curriculum:

Investigating Causal Effects of Arts Education Experiences: Experimental Evidence from Houston’s Arts Access Initiative

Dr. Daniel Bowen from Texas A&M University and Dr. Brian Kisida from the University of Missouri in 2019 released the results of a study focused on how the inclusion of the arts in students’ curriculum impacted them. They found that increasing students’ arts educational experiences reduces the proportion of students receiving disciplinary infractions by 3.6%, increases writing achievement by 0.13 of a standard deviation and bolsters students’ compassion for others by 0.08 of a standard deviation. In addition, these students exhibited more pronounced effects on writing achievement and compassion for others; and demonstrated positive treatment effects on school engagement, college aspirations, arts-facilitated empathy, and perceived value of the arts.

Full Article/Study

The Arts Advantage: Impacts of Arts Education on Boston Students

Dr. Daniel Brown from Texas A&M University and Dr. Brian Kisida from the University of Missouri completed a study in 2019 that found when students are enrolled in arts course, their attendance modestly improves by 0.2 percent. This effect translates into nine additional days of instruction for a class of 25 students. Students who have been chronically absent experience the greatest impacts, attending 1.1 more days per year when enrolled in arts courses.

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Using Multi-Genre Arts Programming to Support Creative Engagement and Social and Emotional Learning in Middle-School Students with Autism

In 2019, researchers from Ivymount School had hypothesized that a multi-genre arts program would not only provide an opportunity for students with autism to experiment with a wide range of artistic genres – including drama, music, puppetry, visual arts and movement – but also to develop social and emotional skills in the context of a safe and highly-motivating learning environment. They found through their works that participation in the ArtAbility program increased creative engagement; and improved social and emotional skills, including self-advocacy, social interactions, friendships, emotion regulation, flexibility, showing support for others and self-confidence.

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Using Arts Integration to Make Science Learning Memorable in the Upper Elementary Grades

In a 2016 study, Drs. Nicholas Graham and Liane Brouillette from the University of California in Irvine found that students exposed to the STEAM lessons demonstrated great improvement on physical science benchmark assessments and helped them envision phenomena that they were not able to directly observe than students exposed to a STEM-only physical science curriculum.

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Dance:

Effects of Creative Dance-Based Exercise on Gait Performance in Adolescents with Cerebral Palsy

Researchers from Korea in 2020 conducted a study to explore creative dance-based (CD) exercise as a rehabilitation intervention for adolescents with cerebral palsy (CP). They found that the participants who received dance exercises had significantly improved body cathexis scale scores. They concluded that CD-based exercise can improve grow motor function, gait performance and body image in adolescents with CP.  

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Adapted Dance Improves Motor Abilities and Participation in Children with Down Syndrome

Researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center conducted a pilot study in 2019 that measured the effects of an adopted dance program on motor abilities and participation in children with Down syndrome (DS). Significant improvements were noted in Gross Motor Function Measure. Caregivers also reported improved scores on the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure, as well as physical, cognitive and emotional improvements. This study supports the use of an adapted dance program to improve motor abilities and participation in children with DS.

Full Article/Study

Effect of Dance on Lower-Limb of Motion in Young People with Cerebral Palsy

In 2019, Brazilian researchers conducted a trial to investigate the effect of dance on the range of motion (ROM) of lower limbs in young people with cerebral Palsy (CP). The results showed improvements in all lower limb joints and axis of movements.  

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Dance Therapy and the Public School: The Development of Social and Emotional Skills of High School Students in Greece

In 2018, Dr. Efthimia Panagiotopoulou researched whether dance therapy could contribute to the development of the students’ social and emotional skills. Data showed that dance therapy practice enabled students to develop their potential and overcome their personal difficulties.

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Dance Improves Functionality and Psychosocial Adjustment in Cerebral Palsy

Brazilian researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial aimed at investigating the effect of dance in the functionality and psychosocial adjustment of young subjects with cerebral palsy in 2017. Their results showed that dance promoted enhancement on functionality and social activities regarding psychosocial adjustments in these patients.

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Music/Singing:

The Benefits of Music Workshop Participation for Pupils’ Wellbeing and Social Capital

In 2021, Dr. Sophie Ward from Durham University in the United Kingdom, concluded from their study that students who participated in a music program as part of their school curriculum experienced cognitive and social benefit, including higher levels of social capital, self-efficacy and a sense of connection to school and community.

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The Therapeutic Relationship as Predictor of Change in Music Therapy with Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

In 2019, researchers from Norway and Germany conducted a study to examine whether the therapeutic relationship in music therapy with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder predicts generalized changes in social skills. They found the music therapy to be an important predictor of the development of social skills, as well as communication and language specifically.

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Increased Engagement of the Cognitive Control Network Associated with Music Training in Children During an fMRI Stroop Task

In a 2017 study, Dr. Matthew Sachs from the Brain and Creativity Institute investigated the effects of music training on Executive Function (generally, the three inter-related cognitive processes of inhibition, working memory and cognitive flexibility). He found that children with music training showed significantly greater activity across multiple parts of the brain that required cognitive control and the results provide some support for the hypothesis that learning to play a musical instrument can impact brain networks that enable executive functioning, which may be connected to music training and enhanced cognitive abilities. 

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Music, Language and Learning: Investigating the Impact of a Music Workshop Project in Four English Early Years Setting

In 2016, Dr. Stephine Pitts from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, conducted a series of music workshops for children aged two to four years and found that music was shown to be effective in raising language attainment, communication and confidence.  Further, the research reported higher than average development in language skills across the year of the project and also showed how music helped to build confidence, social interaction and enjoyment among these children.

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A Preliminary Investigation of a Specialized Music Therapy Model for Children with Disabilities

Several researchers at Duke University conducted a study in 2016 to determine the effectiveness of music therapy as an intervention strategy for children with developmental disability, including autism spectrum disorder. Preliminary findings suggested that music therapy delivered in a classroom in 45-minute weekly sessions for 15 weeks can promote improvements in verbal responsiveness among individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Full Article/Study

Theater:

“It Just Made Me Want to Do Better for Myself”: Performing Arts Education and Academic Performance for African American Male High School Students

Dr. Calvin Walton from Georgia Southern University found in 2020 that students whose curriculum included performing arts education experienced a positive school climate, increased academic achievement and for African American males, arts-based performance contributed to a positive racial identity.

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Early Intervention for Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disability Using Drama Therapy Techniques

In 2020, researchers in China facilitated drama therapy sessions for homeless children aged 3-6 years old with mild to severe intellectual and developmental disabilities to examine its effectiveness. Their research findings indicated that the child participants with drama therapy maintained and in some cases increased their rate of communication and cooperation during intervention and afterwards.

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The Socio-Emotional World of Adolescents with Intellectual Disability: A Drama Therapy-Based Participatory Action Research

Researchers in Haifa, Israel used drama therapy to determine whether adolescents with intellectual disabilities could benefit. In their 2020 work, they found that after the workshops, these adolescents learned to express themselves through dramatic means, such as puppetry and roleplaying, and were able to perform before an audience.

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Changes in Anxiety Following a Randomized Control Trial of a Theatre-Based Intervention for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder

In 2016, researchers from the University of Illinois conducted a study to examine the impact of theatre-based intervention on reducing anxiety and stress in children with autism spectrum disorder. The theatre-based, peer-mediated intervention not only contributed to improvement in social competence with these youths, but also contributed to reductions in trait-anxiety associated with more social interaction with peers.

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Improvement in Social Competence Using a Randomized Trial of a Theatre Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Researchers from Vanderbilt University conducted a study in 2016 to examine the efficacy of theatre-based intervention on social competence in participants with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The results provided initial support for the efficacy of this intervention, including improvements in communication, social ability, and memory of faces.

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Visual Arts:

The Effectiveness of Mandala Colouring Therapy in Increasing Year 3 Pupils’ Focus During the Initial Lesson

Researchers in Malaysia conducted a study in 2020 to identify the effectiveness of the Mandala Colouring Therapy in increasing Year 3 pupils’ focus during the initial lesson of the day. The overall findings revealed that pupils’ interest and focus increased with this therapy. Teachers also admitted that this method enabled the low average pupils to answer questions correctly, complete the tasks and change their behaviours.

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Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Mindfulness Coloring Activity for Test Anxiety in Children  

Drs. Dana Carsley and Nancy Heath in 2018 investigated the effectiveness of mindfulness art activity on test anxiety in children. Results revealed an overall significant decrease in test anxiety and an overall significant increase in state mindfulness following the interventions.

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The Effectiveness of Art Therapy for Teaching Social Skills to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

In 2017, Drs. Miranda D’Amico and Corinne Lalonde evaluated the effectiveness of art therapy for teaching social skills to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Their findings revealed that art therapy enhanced the ability of children with ASD to engage and assert themselves in their social interaction while reducing hyperactivity and inattention.

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The Effect of Painting on Depression in Children with Cancer Undergoing Chemotherapy  

Researchers in Iran conducted a study in 2017 to investigate the effects of drawing on depression in children with cancer undergoing chemotherapy. The results showed that painting was effective in reducing depression in these patients.

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Measuring Critical Thinking: Results from an Arts Museum Field Trip Experiment

In 2016, researchers from the University of Arkansas found positive effects of arts museum visits on students’ ability to critically examine a work of art. They also found that students participating in the field trip program exhibited greater critical thinking about both representational and abstract artwork, and the positive results from the representational artwork was most pronounced for students attending schools with high levels of low-income students.

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