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If parents want to help their children become more creative, they should "engage with them. Don't just give kids arts projects to do in the corner of the house -- write a song together," suggested author Eric Booth, who was in Buffalo last week for a conference on promoting the arts.

"Instead of just taping up pictures on the refrigerator, ask your children questions about what went through their minds when creating the picture. Be consistently curious about the process -- not just the product."

About 80 teachers, artists and arts-in-education administrators heard Booth speak at a conference in Shea's Performing Arts Center on how the arts benefit student learning and achievement.

"We want to promote the arts as an integrated element in education," said Celeste Lawson, executive director of the Arts Council in Buffalo & Erie County. That means engaging students to "participate in a new and exciting way in their traditional subjects."

For the "Capitalize the Arts" conference, the Arts Council brought in Booth, also an educator and actor. He lives in the New York City area and serves as a consultant to arts-in-education programs around the nation.

In an active, fast-paced session with Booth, teachers explored ways the arts can be integrated with other subjects. They also assessed ways to develop professionally and get more satisfaction from their work as art educators.

"Teachers can get back in touch with their own creative natures, which get so 'scrunched' by institutional restraint," said Booth, who wrote "The Everyday Work of Art."

And for students, it's vital to "get them to make stuff they care about, which has become a low priority in schools," said Booth, who has taught at the Lincoln Center Institute and New York University. When they can choose, he said, "kids test better, retain information better."


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