Build a Foundation for STEM with Music

A new instrumental music program for at-risk preschool students in Osceola County, Fla., is aimed at helping develop language, motor, social and other skills to help prepare them for kindergarten. The students receive instruction from a professional violinist during 20-minute sessions held twice a week. “This project really isn’t about making them violin players, it’s about making them kindergarten-ready,” said Debbie Fahmie, fine- and performing-arts resource teacher for Osceola schools.

The folks at Osceola may just be on to something.  Brain research indicates that students who are exposed to music instruction –specifically string instruction –have better attention spans, are able to see patterns, and have greater success with letter and number recognition.  Other research that explores the link between music and intelligence reports that music training–specifically piano instruction–is far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children’s abstract reasoning skills necessary for learning math and science.

Findings published in the February 1997 issue of Neurological Research, are the result of a two-year experiment with preschoolers, led by psychologist Dr. Frances Rauscher of the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh and physicist Dr. Gordon Shaw of the University of California at Irvine. As a follow-up to their ground breaking studies indicating how music can enhance spatial-reasoning ability, the researchers compared the effects of musical and non-musical experiences with early intellectual development.  The experiment included four groups of preschoolers: one group received private piano/keyboard lessons; a second group received singing lessons; a third group received private computer lessons; and a fourth group received no training. Those children who received piano/keyboard training performed 34% higher on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability than the others. These findings indicate that music uniquely enhances higher brain functions required for mathematics, chess, science and engineering.

Experts maintain that these studies reinforce a causal link between music and intelligence.  Early experiences determine which brain cell (neurons) will connect with other brain cells, and which ones will die away. Because neural connections are responsible for all types of intelligence, a child’s brain develops to its full potential only with exposure to the necessary enriching experiences in early childhood.  Music training generates the neural connections used for abstract reasoning, including those necessary for understanding mathematical concepts.

On might think this could certainly change the way educators view, plan, and budget the core school curricula.  Since music nurtures the intellect and produces long-term academic improvements, it is difficult to understand why some educational organizations have chosen to cut music programs – especially in early childhood.  With STEM initiatives on the rise, perhaps funding should also incorporate music and other arts that are so critical to child development.

Schoodoodle.com offers the best selection in educational materials to enhance instruction in preschool through high school.  Browse our selection of early childhood resources, resources for teachers and parents of students in the elementary and upper grades, ebooks for teachers, classroom decorations, bullying and conflict resolution programs, and more.

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