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As the coronavirus upends schools, experts say don’t forget the arts


Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision, Getty Images For some parents and schools, education amid a pandemic will mean a focus on reading, writing and arithmetic. But brain experts say don’t forget the singing, dancing and painting.

Arts education often is seen as a frill. But research shows it boosts educational performance. Exposure to the arts can have direct and indirect benefits to mental and physical health . Far from being a luxury, they fill an essential human need.

“Sometimes they say that the arts are like exercise,” said Susan Magsamen, executive director of the International Arts & Mind Lab within the Brain Science Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. “Exercise is something that helps you with your whole body, right? It helps your stamina. It helps you maintain your balance. It helps you sleep better. It helps your brain work better. The arts are like that, too,” for brain development.

Theater, for example, teaches empathy for differing views and lets students explore complicated issues in a safe space, she said. Choir builds socialization skills. Learning to play an instrument teaches resilience.

They also bring happiness—which can be in short supply during a global health crisis.

“You can’t learn if you don’t feel […]

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