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We hope the summer has been a time for renewal for all of the educators out there, and that the beginning of the new school year goes well.  Check out the interesting work being done to train the observation skills of new doctors through visual art thinking strategies, the initiatives to change "STEM" to include the arts to become "STEAM," and the current battle in a small regional school district in Massachusetts to save their K-8 arts program.

Scientific American just posted a wonderful blog entitled From STEM to STEAM:  Science and Art Go Hand-in-Hand.

Writer Steven Ross Pomeroy points out the the arts and sciences have long had a synergy that "was embodied in great thinkers like the legendary Leonardo Da Vinci and the renowned Chinese polymath Su Song. One of Carl Jung's mythological archetypes was the artist-scientist, which represents builders, inventors, and dreamers."

Pomeroy further notes that "Nobel laureates in the sciences are seventeen times likelier than the average scientist to be a painter, twelve times as likely to be a poet, and four times as likely to be a musician."

The article further points out that Dr. Jerome Kagan, an Emeritus professor at Harvard University, says that the arts contribute amazingly well to learning because they regularly combine the three major tools that the mind uses to acquire, store, and communicate knowledge: motor skills, perceptual representation, and language. "Art and music require the use of both schematic and procedural knowledge and, therefore, amplify a child's understanding of self and the world"
Pictures at an Examination
Zoffany Gore Picture


More than a decade ago, Irwin Braverman, professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, and Linda Friedlaender, curator of education at the Yale Center for British Art, created the Observational Skills Workshop, in which students amass visual clues to "diagnose" paintings, then apply the same process to patients. After two controlled studies demonstrated that the workshop significantly improved physical diagnosis skills, the class became a requirement for every first-year Yale medical student.


At Harvard Medical School, one of more than 20 schools that followed Yale's lead, an elective-Training the Eye: Improving the Art of Physical Diagnosis-relies on a curriculum designed to help museum visitors and public school students become adept at seeing paintings and sculptures. The medical students learn to employ the same concepts to analyze visual clues associated with clinical ailments. The artworks that follow are a few of the dozens that are helping a generation of physicians look at patients first, test results second.


According to a 2008 Harvard Medical School study, medical students enrolled in an art observation course have increased their observation skills by 38 percent.

To learn more about this impressive work, check out the following articles: 


Pictures at an Examination

Class Helping Future Doctors Learn the Art of Observation

Medicine at the Museum

Monet? Gauguin? Using art to make better doctors

MA Regional School District Threatens to Eliminate All K-8 Art and Music
Arts|Learning recently was given a call to give help to a group of parents of the North Middlesex Regional School District, located in northern Massachusetts near the New Hampshire border.  This district failed to gain approval earlier this summer to override "Proposition 2 1/2" to increase the district school budget. 

After weeks of budget slashing--nearly $2M worth--the District is going in front of voters on August 28 once again, as it says it still needs to raise some $800K above the 2.5% limit in order to maintain programs.  If not, K-8 art, music, technology, health, library, and computer classes will be eliminated and the school day shortened by 45 minutes.  Physical Education would be reduced to 2X monthly.  Approximately 24 teachers will lose their positions.

Two of the three towns of Ashby, Townsend, and Pepperell have to pass the override in order for these subjects not to be eliminated this school year.  Additionally, if an approved budget is not in place by Dec. 1, state officials will set the budget for the district, and member towns will not have a say in the amount of their assessment to fund their portions.

Parents and concerned citizens are rallying on Saturday, August 25, 3-5 PM at the Pepperell Town Fields (4 Hollis St. behind the Community Center, Pepperell, MA).  Artists and arts educators, parents, and anyone else concerned about such an issue is urged to attend.   
Arts|Learning is interested in knowing about other Massachusetts districts facing budget cuts affecting arts education.  We stand ready to try to help you with these thorny issues and problems. Please contact us if you need help.

Jonathan C. Rappaport, Executive Director
Arts|Learning, Inc.