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How DB schools are encouraging children in the arts

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When schools cut back on budgets, the arts are usually the first to go. Fortunately, this is not happening here in DB as two upcoming student festivals go to show. Sam Agars reports.

There is plenty of research on how children benefit from an arts education, ranging from the way it promotes right brain activity (emotional perception, intuition and creativity), to how it helps build confidence, dedication, non-verbal communication and problem solving. Most importantly, perhaps, children enjoy the arts – painting, drawing, making music, acting – so a school which promotes these activities tends to be a fun school to attend.

At Discovery Bay International School (DBIS) and Discovery College (DC) the arts are not only studied individually, they are also used to support students in other facets of their learning and life.

The DBIS arts programme starts at kindergarten age, with the school dedicated to offering many options for its students, including arts elements built in to the curriculum, after-school activities and lunchtime clubs. Roughly 250 students learn a musical instrument within the school. The approach to the arts at DC is equally inclusive. Every student has to take at least one arts subject, be that music, drama or visual art, through Year 11.

The 2016/ 2017 academic year kicks off with big arts events at both schools. DBIS is preparing to host the FOBISIA Music Orchestra Festival from September 23 to 26, and DC’s Discovery Culture Festival is set to run from November 30 to December 7. These events play a key role in the overall arts programmes of both schools, aiming to promote student learning and engage pupils in experiences that help them grow into well-rounded individuals.

It’s show time at DC

The Discovery Culture Festival, a week-long celebration of arts, culture and literature, is now into its ninth year and, according to DC’s deputy head of school and festival chair Peter Lasscock, it is designed in a way that ensures every student at the school participates. The line-up for this year includes author talks, an ensemble evening, a photography competition and workshops in Chinese watercolour painting, street dance, drumming and stage fighting.

“Students do a whole range of activities, like site visits to artists, designing their own hike and Capoeira,” Peter says. “It’s a very broad view we take on what culture actually is.”

The festival offers students experiences that they may not otherwise get, with the majority of activities linked back to the school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. “What we want to do is broaden their horizons, so in some ways it is to look at different perspectives on what they are already studying and give them access to people with skills and experiences they might not have within the curriculum,” Peter says. “Generally, it is something the students really look forward to. We try and get them to go a little bit outside their comfort zone and try something new.”

After nearly nine years of involvement with the festival, Peter has seen it grow and has had a first-hand view of just what students have gained. “I think it is something that is very positive and beneficial to them,” he says. “For the senior kids it is often about giving them experiences that might point them in the right direction for their diploma studies.

“It complements the academic side; the people who are doing well in this fast-changing world are the people who have creative skills and who are adaptable,” Peter adds. “We think it’s really beneficial in terms of making our students confident, creative, able to interact with people in different ways, and be successful in life.”

Music in the air at DBIS

Six years into its relationship with The Federation of British International Schools in Asia (FOBISIA), DBIS continues to benefit from the range of competitive, learning and networking events offered by the organisation. As one of 52 member schools throughout Asia, DBIS is able to participate in all sorts of drama events, music festivals, sports competitions and more.

One of those events is the FOBISIA Music Orchestra Festival that DBIS is hosting next month. The festival sees students converge on DB from as many as 12 schools from the likes of Taipei, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Each school selects a group of its most gifted and talented musicians, with DBIS set to form a team of 10 secondary students. The chosen kids work with a professional conductor in the lead up to the final-day concert.

“It’s the opportunities that you remember,” says Clare Lambert, DBIS’ head of creative arts. “Children don’t look back and think, ‘that was a nice maths lesson,’ they tend to look back and go, ‘remember when I was in that show.’”

The FOBISIA Music Orchestra Festival presents students with the perfect opportunity to test themselves at a higher level than that traditionally available in the classroom and helps familiarise them with high-pressured working environments. By being exposed to such focused and specific teaching, students can explore their true music potential.

“They learn the skills of working together and working with a professional conductor, which is obviously more demanding,” Clare says. “The learning that they achieve is amazing over the three days and their musical achievement rises so quickly when they’re in that environment and they’re challenged.”

For Clare, an arts education isn’t just something that can lead into a career, but something that can support students’ well-being, develop their life skills and help them to relax: “Music and drama, particularly, lead to confidence, performing, public speaking and communication skills,” she says. “If students can enjoy one of the creative arts, I feel I’ve done my job.”

Of course, just like at DC, there is also the correlation between what is learned through the arts and academic success. “When we do our concerts we aim for the students to be as actively involved as possible,” Clare says. “It all enhances what they’re doing within the classroom.”

Skills children learn from the arts

  • The ability to think creatively with an open mind
  • Confidence, and how to convincingly deliver a message
  • The ability to observe and describe, analyse and interpret
  • Non-verbal communication and the ability to express feelings, with or without words
  • The ability to accept constructive feedback
  • Problem-solving skills and critical-thinking skills
  • The ability to collaborate with other children and with adults
  • Perseverance, dedication, accountability and focus
  • Awareness that all kids can excel in the arts, despite physical, emotional or learning challenges

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