Art Makes Kids Better Thinkers and Students


Art class has been a fixture in elementary and primary schools for generations in the United States. However, in an age when school boards are often forced to make difficult decisions about funding for in-school and extracurricular programming, art tends to be one of the first areas that get hit with budget cuts.

Supporters of the arts are always quick to vocalize just how important art can be in school. Several years ago, a team of social scientists from the University of Arkansas developed a study that provided some more concrete scientific evidence to the benefits of getting kids exposed to and involved with art. What they found was not only did kids with higher exposure to the arts become more creative, but they also become better students and thinkers.


“Measurable and significant” results

The study was published in Educational Researcher and Education Next, and found that students exposed to cultural institutions like art museums, historical museums and performing arts centers not only engaged more with the arts, but also displayed more empathy and tolerance, showed signs of an improved memory and showed off sharper critical thinking skills. These changes were, according to one of the researchers in the study, “measurable and significant.”

Researchers analyzed students who participated in a field trip to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The groups of students visited five paintings in an hour. There were no curator lectures during these tours—students were given minimal information about the paintings, and instead talked to each other about their feelings about the art.

Several weeks later, students were directed to fill out a survey about their experience at the museum. They were asked to recall information about the paintings and answered general questions about their tolerance of others whether they were able to empathize with people from other historical periods. Finally, they were asked to write a short essay about a new painting.

Researchers were surprised by how much information the groups had remembered about the paintings. The students also showed a much greater ability to empathize with people and scenarios than control groups of students who did not have the same field trip experience.


Bringing these results to the classroom

This research specifically focused on kids’ ability to appreciate art and how it affects them, but researchers say the results also translate into school settings.

Students who create art in school settings exercise the same creative and critical thinking skills they use when discussing art in a museum setting. By making it a routine part of their day, whether it be in school or in an after school program, they exponentially increase the value they get out of art exposure that they would get from a single trip to a museum.

Tranquila Arts strongly believes in the importance of art in developing kind and creative young students and critical thinkers. Contact us for more information about our programming.

Joshua Chernikoff