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Mar 16

The Importance of Balance Between P.E. and Art Education

Physical education and the arts regulate our bodies and minds, balance our physical and mental needs, and help us to function at higher levels. Why then do we fight about which is most important?

The important balance between PE and the Arts

The Field Trip

I recently accompanied my 10-year-old daughter on a field trip. We had a great day outside walking from display to display and activity to activity. At lunchtime, we saw The math and P.E. teachers sitting in the area we had decided to eat and joined them.

Conversations ebbed and flowed in their normal pattern. The parents that joined us obviously knew both teachers on a more personal level and they conversed about their older high school-aged kids and college-aged kids. Following their conversation, I realized their children were interested in the sciences. Slowly, the conversation switched to high school graduation requirements.

When I attended high school, not a single art or humanities class requirement existed, a P.E. requirement did. Now, the state of Arizona has done an 180° and requires art but no P.E. In understandable frustration, the P.E. teacher said, “I don’t understand what’s so important about the fine arts. What can anyone get from taking a pottery class?” Carefully, I responded, “There is a lot that can be learned.” I continued by discussing the importance of balance between both P.E. and art.

P.E. and Me

Growing up I detested P.E. The purpose of the class appeared to be nothing more than my humiliation. I couldn’t run — my legs were short. Games played with a ball meant I covered my head in fear even when I reminded myself the goal was to catch it. Even stretching was cumbersome. The P.E. teachers often told me to “get lower” only to realize my flexibility was already maxed out.

There were times I was OK. I liked dodgeball because I knew how to jump away from balls aimed at my head. As a freshman in high school, I learned I was OK at the hurdles. I also found myself breaking the school record for the arm hang in junior high and missing the high school record by a single second the following year. At one point, I caught the fast-moving badminton shuttlecock (birdie) with my bare hand. All I knew was I needed to hit it. Apparently, I couldn’t remember which hand to use and I used the wrong one. It impressed the P.E. teacher but didn’t gain me any points in the game.

Outside of school I rode my bike, hiked, and slalom water-skied. I got pretty good at treading water too. Swimming? Not so much. I told people I preferred more individual sports that only measured personal bests. Of course, sit-ups and push-ups didn’t count.

The important balance between PE and the Art Education

Left: Hiking the Grand Canyon 2011 Right: Water-skiing 2013

As an adult, all of this still stands true. Team sports and exercise groups do not lift my spirit. However, I value physical activity and recognize the importance of physical education in our schools.

Some Benefits of P.E.

  • Teaches children to take care of their bodies
  • Proven to combat depression and anxiety
  • Teaches discipline
  • Provides sensory input that calms the “wiggles” (similar to recess)
  • Introduces children to healthy hobbies and activities
  • Increases concentration and focus
  • Increases large motor skills

The Arts and Me

When I was two and our church announced a talent show, I told my mom I wanted to sing. I still try to imagine that conversation, but I know my mom, and she would not have put me on a stage without it being my idea. I sang “Two Little Eyes” a song found in our children’s song book. In 5th grade, my art project was chosen by the school district to be displayed at the local mall. The ceramic project shaped like Swiss cheese with a mouse on top made me a proud little girl! At 15, I chose to enroll in the Parks and Rec tole painting class — and continue painting today!

I may not have participated in theatrical performances, but I spent plenty of time on the stage singing in choirs. I chose speech, choir, humanities, and music theory as my electives. All of them fitting snuggly into the world of art. I won music awards and loved music so much I chose to study it in college.

As an adult, my love of the arts has continued and grown. My love of music gives me opportunities to conduct choirs and sing in church. Several musical compositions found their way to paper through my fingers. I paint anything that will accept a paint brush and on occasion — as you can see in the main picture above, I work with polymer clays to create ceramic like pieces. A change in my resolve that art remains important to education would be uncanny.

Some Benefits of Art

  • Teaches children to value creativity
  • Often strengthens skills in mathematics and science (as those skills may be necessary for a project)
  • Teaches discipline
  • Provides calming sensory input
  • Increases fine motor skills
  • Proven to combat depression and anxiety
  • Increases concentration and focus
  • Develops the creative nature necessary in scientific innovations

Overlap

Notice the great overlap between physical education and the arts. The similarities are more marked than the differences. In fact, in some cases practicing one compliments the learning of the other. For instance, playing an instrument and singing require a certain amount of physical fitness. Without it, the sounds we appreciate cannot be made. Musicians learn how to exercise necessary muscles and physical activity is always recommended. Interestingly, listening to music while performing physical tasks helps increase our physical abilities by allowing us to put our focus somewhere other than on our pain and fatigue. The creativity to develop aerobic routines increases through the study of both art and the needs of the body.

The Importance of Balance Between P.E. and Art Education

Some may look at the benefits, recognize the overlap, and determine the study of one over the other results in similar results. Unfortunately, for schools around the world, that simply isn’t true. Both exercise of the body and exercise of the creative mind are important. If we do not know how to take care of our bodies, can we live healthy lives? No. Without creative prowess, which leads to innovation in sciences and technologies, can we continue our growth in such important areas? No.

As a society, we must find the balance between physical education and the arts. Our children suffer when only one is taught. Often used as an excuse, a school’s budget should not come into play. Both programs must exist on a balanced plane. It is possible to offer both P.E. and art, just as it is possible to offer no P.E. and two forms of art. Similarly, a school with two large sports teams and a band lacks the necessary balance our children deserve.

Now is the time to stop battling each other over the importance of sports and art. Instead, talk to your educators.  Make certain the school boards and teachers recognize how physical education and art education compliment each other.  We need to request a balanced education that includes both P.E. and art education. The inability to fund both programs comes less from a lack of budget and more from placing importance on one over the other.  Balancing the programs increases our children’s abilities to reach their goals and succeed later in life. Why would we do otherwise?

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About the author

Kameo Monson

Kameo has been married for 22 years. She has 2 boys ages 17 and 15, and 2 girls ages 13 and 11. Her interests range from music - especially choir music to gel polish to dresses to reading to camping and hiking. Kameo loves animals and has 3 dogs, a cat, a Guinea pig, a hamster, and some fish in her home. She and her family like to have small excursions to places close to home and enjoy being outside watching her husband and son fly R/C planes or make contacts on their HAM radios.

Kameo started with OMG Goodies in January 2015 and has become a proficient reviewer. Like all of our bloggers, we are happy to have her on the team.

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