I often hear about the pressure that many early childhood teachers feel to meet academic performance outcomes for the children in their classroom. “I have to make sure I complete my observations and assessments,” they say. Or, “my children have to be reading, or writing, or fill in the blank, before Kindergarten,” they remark. What was once a time period where children were free to play, explore, and use their imaginations now feels like a time period where the structure and rigor of the K-12 system is slowly trickling down. When we’re so focused on academics, there certainly can’t be any time for the arts, right? Wrong!
There is significant research that supports the notion of incorporating academic concept development in early childhood education in authentic ways; meaning no worksheets, no rote memorization, etc. But what does that really look like in practice, and how can we incorporate those concepts while simultaneously promoting learning in, and an appreciation for the arts? There are many resources for early childhood educators that help build a bridge between academics and the arts. Nurturing Creativity is one such resource that does a fantastic job of giving practical advice related to individual classroom interest areas, as well as across developmental domains. Another often overlooked, but highly useful resource are cultural institutions.
Did you know that most cultural institutions have educators on staff, or work closely with educators to create curricular content to support their exhibits? Deeply rooted in their respective content area (visual arts, science, music, etc.), these educators also understand the need to relate their content to developmental domains, as well early learning standards. I recently partnered with the Denver Art Museum to create early childhood content for a few of their recent special exhibits (one example here). The lesson plans provide a bridge from the museum to the classroom, as well as eliminate the need for teachers to create these lessons on their own (we all know that planning time is limited in the world of early childhood education)! Most importantly, they provide an avenue to incorporate the arts into the classroom, without sacrificing concept development in math, language, literacy…all of the areas for which educators must still be accountable. Check out your local zoo, art museum, botanic garden, theatre, or science center. I’m sure there are a ton of classroom resources just waiting to be explored and implemented!