This is the future of early childhood education.
When I was a tot, I was given the gift of having an artist for a mother. She even taught at my elementary school and summer arts programs for youth. I have been entrenched in the visual arts my whole life, by consequence of my creative guardian. I had the chance to create artwork outside of school, an inadvertent arts enrichment program integrated into my home life.
But, not everybody is lucky enough to have a parent or guardian who is an artist and believes so strongly in the arts. Thus, the famed Kaleidoscope program at Settlement Music School, founded in the year 1990. The preschool functions as a sanctuary of all-things art for Philadelphia's smallest citizens.
Today, I took a tour of the Kaleidoscope classrooms, observed the dynamic of the spaces themselves, and briefly watched the children as they utilized each classroom's resources. And, man, there are many resources right there at the child's fingertips. The Kaleidoscope Pre-K serves children aged 3-5 years old and is dubbed "arts enrichment learning." Essentially, this means that the students enrolled in the school have arts classes as their core curriculum. This includes music, creative movement, and visual arts. The school day is fraught with the students interacting with the arts and the outcome of such an arts heavy education is, in a word, astonishing.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Tarrell Davis, the Director of Early Childhood Programming, about Kaleidoscope and its merits. I found myself falling into fascination with the program with every word she was saying. Ms. Davis recounts the program as "more than just rote learning." The kids don't memorize material and spit it back out, rather the concepts become "embedded" in their understanding, according to Ms. Davis. They learn things like patterns through musical activities (like identifying beats in a song) and things like the evolution of caterpillar to butterfly through dance. With well-trained and experienced teachers who intimately care about every single student, the Kaleidoscope program is historically amazing.
After listening to the inspiring descriptions of Tarrell Davis and beholding the students actively engaged in real arts activities, I'm utterly convinced that this program works. Just look at the formalized research on the inter-webs.
The power of the arts should never be underestimated.