Collaboration on Playgrounds
On a playset, collaboration looks like a group of kids working together to manage the imaginary high seas of a fast-approaching Nor’easter by role-playing ways they must save the ship together. The captain works with the crew to keep the make-believe boat from taking on water or running into obstacles. In a sandbox, collaboration looks like young bakers making “sand cakes” to host celebrities at their new restaurant opening. Imagined VIP guests and decorations for personalized cakes keep a pretend play hour loaded with creativity. Piles of imagination, creativity and collaboration on a playground is where educating the whole child starts.

Collaboration is a term trending in education right now and one focus of developing the whole child. The whole child learning approach enlarges the educational model to include the emotional, social, moral and physical parts of the whole person. It shows that a student’s confidence grows with proficiency in more than one interest. Confidence in many interests can lead to collaboration, and collaboration encourages out-of-the-box problem solving. In grownup terms this is called innovation—something quite marketable in our increasing commercial world.

A Real-World Scenario
Jazmyne enjoys science and art. She spends hours gathering things from her yard and doing experiments in the basement. She also enjoys making clay molds of toy animals that she paints with bright acrylics. Jazmyne joins the science club and drama team in middle school and continues her art classes in mixed media and pottery. In college, she earns a degree in science and continues to create art projects as a hobby. She is hired at a local university hospital as a pediatric nurse. A few years into the career, Jazmyne gets invited to join a special team that cares for kids with head trauma or underdeveloped skulls. The team is asked to create baby helmets to protect heads and make designs that are playful and personalized for small patients. Jazmyne uses her interest in art to collaborate with other students and they produce a helmet with a one-of-a-kind “Disney fashion” design to ease the concerns of parents and young children with skull problems.

The Benefits of Music and Art
In the example, Jazmyne uses both her science and art interests to collaborate with others and make a quality and helpful product. Jazmyne’s knowledge in two subjects makes her valuable for discussions that fuse art and science. Another creative interest that can be fused into academics is music. One advantage of taking art or music is that the learning is individualized, unlike standard school subjects taught in large classes. If your student struggles to focus or is easily distracted in groups, music or art provides an alternative learning pace, one helping students gain confidence through individual successes. A secondary advantage of a young student studying music or art is the emotional well-being benefit. According to the National Education of Elementary Principals (, students “feel empowered when their talents are accommodated, and when they feel recognized as being just as capable as their peers.” (“Arts Education and the Whole Child”, Hal Nelson, January/February, 2009, p.17). Art and music can be areas where abilities don’t have to fit standardized molds—students are free to express themselves in unconventional academic ways that earn them good grades.

Other positive aspects to signing your child up for piano lessons at Jessye Norman School of the Arts or drawing courses at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art are memory improvement, brainpower and better reading and language skills. Recent studies associate music and language with the same brain locations.  “Children’s brains develop faster with music, particularly in areas associated with language acquisition and reading skills, according to a 2016 study at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute.” (“10 Reasons Why Kids NEED Art & Music”, April, 2019,

Perhaps one of the most surprising benefits of art and music is the time and discipline it takes to study each. It is a common misconception that art is easy. For growth in any subject practice and good instruction are key. It is the same with art and music which rely on daily discipline and commitment, much like learning an unfamiliar math concept or new vocabulary words. Lack of practice or lazy learning will not produce the best benefits.

Art and music educate the whole child by producing more confident and collaborative students in multiple areas of interest. Learning music or art helps students expand their educational, emotional, social and personal wholeness. It provides stronger ways for students to navigate an ever-changing world and remain confident they have something valuable to add in the mix.

According to Americans for the Arts, a student involved in the arts is

• 4x more likely to be recognized for academic achievement
• 4x more likely to participate in a math or science fair
• 3x more likely to win an award for school attendance
• 3x more likely to be elected to class office

Source:, April, 2019

Visit to read the inspiriting story of Paula Strawn, a 60-year-old artist who has changed the lives of families by painting personalized corrective baby helmets from her Washington home.