Out of the Box: Positive Development & Social Change Through the Arts

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As a part of its collaboration with the Born This Way Foundation, the Berkman Center is publishing on this website a series of papers that synthesize existing peer-reviewed research or equivalent scholarship and provide research-grounded insight to the variety of stakeholders working on issues related to youth empowerment and action towards creating a kinder, braver world. This series, called the The Kinder & Braver World Project: Research Series (danah boyd, John Palfrey, and Dena Sacco, editors), is presented by the Born This Way Foundation & the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and supported by the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. This set of papers involves topics related to the Role of Youth Organizations and Youth Movements for Social Change. From early childhood to adolescence, the arts can foster youth movements for social change through positive development. Students who experience high levels of arts enrichment show greater academic performance, enrollment in and graduation from high school and college, civic and community service, news consumption, and engagement in local politics. Moreover, participation in the arts — even as a spectator — predicts increases in civic engagement, tolerance and altruism, regardless of age, race, or education. One of the ways in which the arts promote positive development is through opportunities for social-emotional learning. The social-emotional value of the arts is important because these needs are central to behavior, and social-emotional skill building contributes to a healthier social and learning environment. The arts are a powerful vehicle for social-emotional learning because they have universal appeal and allow for group participation by persons of all abilities and cultures. Shared creative experiences can facilitate insight and empathy, which enable changing perceptions of self and others, social connection, and individual and collective empowerment. Furthermore, group-based arts activities can be implemented in school and recreational settings where most youth can be found.


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