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Arts Education Benefits Students

For many students, studying the arts can provide a unique lens on the learning process.

This is especially true for students who receive special education services, said Jason Betancourt, who teaches art at SSD’s Ackerman School and Litzsinger School. He intertwines math, science and history in most of his art lessons.

“When a student has an individualized education program (IEP), in my opinion, it is so helpful for information to be delivered in multiple formats because no student learns just one way,” he said. “If I can take content they learned in science class, for example, and add a visual layer to that, the learning increases.”

The start of the school year presents a great opportunity to reflect on how art is used to help students meet goals.

“Art can help students who have IEPs in many ways,” said Stephanie McCoy, art teacher at Litzsinger and SSD's Southview School. “We utilize speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists to assist with and encourage IEP goals in these areas including effective communication and fine-motor skills.”

McCoy added that for students with emotional needs, art can reduce anxiety and help them learn to regulate emotions in a positive way.

At Ackerman, art is celebrated throughout the year. Two gallery installments coincide with the school's winter program and graduation. 

“This allows for the highest amount of parent interactions,” said Betancourt. “Students love to show off their artwork to their families and guardians,” he added. “We create a collection of artwork that the students choose to best depict their personalities.”

Betancourt said not all art projects look the same because people learn in different ways. “Trial and error is a great tool in education,” said Betancourt. “Sometimes the failures are great and you have to deal with behaviors, but usually it's a learning experience.

Art is important in all schools because it teaches children that it is okay to fail. It's okay if you can’t do something the very first time you try it,” said Betancourt.

At Southview, art is celebrated with a spring art show in which families and friends can view students’ artwork in person. “This helps students build confidence and pride by allowing others to see and comment on their work,” said McCoy.

DeMarco, a sixth-grader at Southview, said he really enjoys making three-dimensional art. Deion, an eighth-grader, said, “I like making sculptures outside.”

“Art gives students the opportunity to express themselves using a variety of mediums,” said McCoy. “Through the study of world art and art history, students learn the importance of diversity and cultural awareness. Art encourages fine motor skills, neural development, and problem-solving abilities, as well as sensory exploration and tolerance.”

National Arts in Education Week will be celebrated this year from Sept. 9-15.


Published September 2018

student working on art project


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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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