Investing In Our Children Through The Arts: STEM And The Impact On Early Childhood Development

By Bryan Boroughs, Vice President, Institute for Child Success & Akua Kouyate-Tate, Senior Director of Education at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

Panelists speak at the Creativity Connects event in Charleston, SC

During the first few years of life, the brain forms one million new neural connections every second, providing the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health. The arts are powerful teaching tools that unlock children’s innate desire for learning, and integrating arts into STEM education for young children is a powerful strategy for leveraging that rapid brain development to boost outcomes for our children.

For example, a four-year study by the American Institutes of Research (AIR) confirmed that arts-integrated techniques can boost learning in other subjects. The study’s preschool and kindergarten students gained 1.3 months of additional learning in math compared to their peers in the control group schools (without integrating additional arts), and 1.7 additional months in the second year.

Inspired by similar strategies, the Institute for Child Success partnered with the WolfTrap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts to host the Creativity Connects series in 2017 and 2018. This included a Symposium at the Gibbes Museum, aimed at helping Charleston’s educators, policy-makers, and other organizations increase their engagement in early childhood arts integration.

What are some things you can do in your own communities to help deploy arts-integration for young children?  Consider:

  • Talking to your children or children in your community about the arts and encouraging their involvement and creativity;
  • Encouraging local artists, businesses, community organizations and early childhood centers to support STEM education and arts integration; and
  • Sharing Charleston’s vibrant art history and current art environment with children of all ages, but especially young children.

You can get a sense of this vibrant event through this recap video created by Wolf Trap. As this project winds down, we look forward to sharing resources developed through these sessions to help you integrate arts in the every day lives of young children!

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