In order to provide a thorough education for students across the country, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 made art a mandatory part of public school curricula. As a compliment to the sciences and humanities taught throughout the elementary, middle and high school levels, art is a way to further develop a student’s understanding of different disciplines, and expose them to new and engaging topics. For many students, art classes provided in school are the primary source of art education and are therefore an essential part of public school core curriculum. In many schools, art programs seek to establish skills in crafts, design, painting and other forms of visual expression.
For elementary school students, art classes seek to foster interest as well as skill in many different forms of art. The art teacher usually has the freedom to design their own classes, but in general, classes will include basic drawing, painting and crafts. In middle school, classes continue to help students improve basic artistic skills, while introducing concepts in art history. At this level, lessons are still basic and intended to establish a solid foundation in skill and history. In high school, art classes expand to include other visual medium, such as video, photography and even graphic design. Art theory is also introduced at this level, and the subject becomes more of a serious academic study than an activity.
Dance, although a form of art, is not a mandatory subject as stipulated by No Child Left Behind. Still, it is equally important to the development of a well-rounded student. Dance is usually offered as an elective, and a number of new initiatives have helped to strengthen the place of dance in schools and have led to an increase in extracurricular dance clubs. Dance can additionally be taught as part of a physical education program.
Like dance, drama is a form of art that is not a mandatory part of the curriculum, but still can play a very important roll in the development of students. Drama, or theater, is usually offered as an elective or an extracurricular activity, and is concerned with instilling students with an aptitude for acting in a variety of styles, methods and techniques. Drama teachers train students to communicate, control and project their voices, and present themselves. The responsibilities of a drama educator may include creating lesson plans, teaching students about plays and theater history, assisting students in creating their own dramatic pieces, organizing and managing the learning environment, directing performance rehearsals, helping to set-up and manage lighting and sets, and assessing students’ performance.
In elementary school, drama usually takes the form of school pageants or skits organized by teachers to educate students about teamwork, creativity and oftentimes literature. Classes can also play theater games for fun, while channeling a child’s creativity, imagination and performance skills. In middle school or high schools, full-length plays or musicals are orchestrated by students and their drama teachers in cooperation. Here, students can be exposed to drama as an elective or as part of an English class. Many drama clubs are supervised by an instructor who teaches in another subject and volunteers for the role. This is often an English teacher or other educator who has a measure of experience with literature and drama. Some schools, however, employ a drama teacher on a full-time basis.