March 4, 2010

Youth and the Arts: More than a Pretty Picture

3/4/10 -
Melissa Sharp & Andrew Yuan, 4-H Youth Mentors, Pinellas County Extension

Should American youth be involved in the Arts? According to the Americans for the Arts Organization, being involved in the arts dramatically increases a youth’s ability to succeed in school and decreases the dropout rate and tardy frequency. They stated that youth in the Arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and join a science and/or math fair, and three times more likely to be voted into a class office position. The Arts have been found to improve a youth’s self-esteem, work ethic, and raise test scores, as found in studies conducted by the Arts Education Partnership. The Arts also act as a liaison between the school and the community, positively bonding the two together.

4-H is well aware of the importance of the arts and its ability to teach its youth important life skills. Youth are encouraged to “Do, Reflect, and Apply” which are the three steps of the 4-H learning process. The youth “Do” an activity or performance, “Reflect” on what they learned, and then “Apply” it to the real-world. In order to support the Arts, 4-H has expanded its curriculum over the years to accommodate many different tastes and talents, from theater to painting and many others.

On February 26th 2010 Pinellas County 4-H held its annual Night of the Arts and Share the Fun Competition where 4-H youth took to the stage for a night of fun and spotlights. There were nearly twenty different acts, with performers ranging in age from eight to eighteen. They had the chance to display their various talents from dancing to singing, and acting to playing instruments. Some of the youth even chose to perform multiple times. The winners have the opportunity to compete at the District level Share the Fun and if they win, the seniors are eligible to compete at State Share the Fun.

In addition to performing live, Florida 4-H also conducts the 4-H Poster and Photo Exhibit contests. Here, youth who may not want to appear on stage may express themselves by creating a poster reflecting a theme or a photo exhibit of one or more photos. The photos may be from film or digital cameras. There are separate categories for photos that are computer enhanced.

To the performers at Share the Fun, this event offers a great opportunity for the youth because even if they don’t win they gain the experience (Do) of being on stage, which will give them the strength to accomplish their goals. They can think critically (Reflect) about their performance and gain positive feedback from friends, family, and peers which will boost their self-esteem. Through this process, the youth gain the necessary tools and courage to go out and change the world (Apply.)

4-H curricula generally come in many different levels from beginner to mastery. Here is some of the Arts-related curricula that 4-H offers:
Adventures with Your Camera
Focus on Photography
Controlling the Image
Mastering Photography
Theatre Arts
Play the Role
Become a Puppeteer
Set the Stage
2-D and 3-D Art
Sketchbook Crossroads
Portfolio Pathways
Measuring Up
Making the Cut
Nailing it Together
Finishing Up

Americans for the Arts Organization
National Arts Education Public Awareness
Arts Education Partnership

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