The Importance of Learning throughout Our Lives

Posted by Ms. Carol Bogash, Sep 18, 2013 1 comment

Carol Bogash Carol Bogash

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” - Albert Einstein

What is Life Long Learning?  Simply, I believe it is the consistent and deep engagement of the mind and body in the active pursuit of knowledge and experience from birth to death.  Now, science is helping to support the importance of learning in keeping brains active and healthy for a lifetime.  The Maryland State Department of Education with the Johns Hopkins University School of Education published a set of guidelines in 2010 entitled Healthy Beginnings, supporting development and learning from birth through three years of age.  The Dana Alliance for the Brain states in its paper Learning as We Age (2012) that “mental exercise, especially learning new things or pursuing activities that are intellectually stimulating, may strengthen brain-cell networks and help preserve mental functions. The brain is just as capable of learning in the second half of life as in the first half.”

Over recent years, neuroscientists continue to conduct research on how the mental and physical activities so integral to the arts are equally fundamental for brain function. Charles Limb, brain scientist and musician at Johns Hopkins University (and a member of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s science advisory team), says that “the brain on arts is different than the everyday brain. Art is magical, but it is not magic. It is a neurological product and we can study it. “

At the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra we are committed to the importance of engagement in music from the earliest age to the oldest.  The BSO Music Box Series (™) introduces children 6 months to three years of age to music, art, and reading through interactive activities designed to stimulate awareness, listening, coordination, language, and music making.  Although the research is anecdotal based on observance, we are seeing positive recognition in children who are attending these experiences on a regular basis.

And at the end of the spectrum, we are engaging seniors well into their 80s in intense music making through the activities of the BSO Academy where participants play side-by-side with the pros for an evening, a weekend, or an entire week.  One of our participants, a flute player, says "playing with the BSO Academy in 2011 was a dream come true for me and fulfilled my bucket list. Playing with the BSO Academy in 2012 was the icing on the bucket list.”

Our education system in the United States must make a stronger effort to ensure that arts education is available to every child regardless of where they live or their socio-economic status.  And, this education must start at the earliest age.  Through the BSO’s OrchKids program, which will serve nearly 800 Baltimore City Public School children from the most underserved areas of the city this year, we are seeing the positive results of immersion in music study from pre-k through middle school.  Dan Trahey, Artistic Director of OrchKids, says that “one of the beauties of the OrchKids program is that it bucks the trend of exposing youth to music and puts them in the driver’s seat of creating and performing music. The benefits are endless: increased attendance, marked improvement in behavior, better peer to peer relationships, and improved scores in reading and math.  This is not possible unless we give every one of our children democratic access to a Pre-K through 12th grade musical pathway. “

It is obvious to state, but nonetheless important to recognize, that the benefits of lifelong learning not only enhance the lives of those partaking in these experiences, but also the institutions and communities providing the services.  Our youngest children have an opportunity to grow up as productive citizens experiencing positive self-esteem and a sense of potential for the future.  Our oldest citizens equally continue to feel a sense of worth and pride in their achievements and joy in being creative through the arts.  And, of equal importance, our arts institutions are showcased as having an important and continuing role in the life of their communities.

1 responses for The Importance of Learning throughout Our Lives


October 28, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Right on, Carol! As I prepare to speak to 400 active senior citizens at the University of Central Florida, I am further emboldened to speak about the power of the arts to change and enhance lives .... At all ages!
Mary palmer

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