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The Power of the Arts for Children’s Growth and Learning

Published on 9/10/2019

It seems intuitive that our lives – and the lives of our children – are enriched by the arts. As parents, we strive to give our children access to creative materials and experiences that allow them to explore their world, express themselves, and try new things. Schools, too, have an important role to play in this arena. 

The late Stanford professor Elliot Eisner beautifully articulated some essential skills children gain through arts education. Eisner’s “10 Lessons the Arts Teach” , included below, are championed by the National Art Education Association. These lessons  - along with a recent Brookings Institute study - highlight that the arts are more than a “nice to have” addition to schools. They are critical to developing our children’s capacity to see and express nuance, engage a broad range of thinking and perceiving, build empathy, practice persistence, grow academically and socially, make meaning, and take positive risks. 


In Eisner’s words, the arts:

  1. Teach children to make good judgements about qualitative relationships. Judgment prevails rather than rules and correct answers.

  2. Teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.

  3. Celebrate multiple perspectives. There are many ways to see and interpret the world.

  4. Teach children that in complex forms of problem solving, purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. 

  5. Make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

  6. Teach students that small differences can have large effects. The arts traffic in subtleties.

  7. Teach students to think through and within a material. 

  8. Help children learn to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to  find the words that will do the job.

  9. Enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

  10. (when positioned in the school curriculum) Symbolize to the young what adults believe is important.


These arts-fueled skills and qualities will serve our children in their future careers, relationships, and contributions to their communities.  And importantly, the arts enrich the present: bringing joy, new forms of learning, and depth to the school day. 



Since 1925, Peninsula School has provided creative, child-centered education in the heart of Menlo Park. Peninsula’s Nursery through 8th grade students learn about themselves and others, discover their passions, and grow intellectually in an inclusive community rich with choices, exploration, and play. Abundant arts, a focus on learning in a non-competitive environment, integration of social, intellectual, and emotional development, and a tree-filled natural setting are just some of the features that make Peninsula a unique, engaging, and nurturing school environment. Join us for an Open House or School Tour, and discover why Peninsula students love school!