Art as a Mediating Tool: Children and Learning in a Music and Arts-Based After School Program

Claudia Saldana Corral, University of Texas at El Paso


This study explores the experiences of primarily Latina/o children with learning music in a Music and Arts-Based Program (MABP) the context of a low-income neighborhood on the U.S- Mexico border. This year-long ethnographic study was conducted in an after-school art program in the Rio Grande Elementary School, in a low-income neighborhood located within one-mile of the U.S.-Mexico border. The purpose of the study is to understand how music and art can be used as a mediating tool for children to construct social and cognitive learning within a culturally diverse community, thus, enhancing the social environment in which they interact. The participants were 36 emergent bilingual students from the 3rd to 5th grade who were learning to play violin, cello, and piano. The theoretical frameworks of Art Education, Zone of Proximal Development, Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), and Situated Learning informed the data collection and analysis to capture an understanding of how art shapes learning in the MABP. The ethnographic study was conducted over one year using diverse methodological tools which provided a form of data triangulation between participant observation, interview, and visual artwork sources. The data analysis was divided into two stages of analysis to respond to study questions. The first analysis was conducted through a thematic analysis, where findings showed that students learned music through their diverse social activity participation. The students’ music learning experiences were expressed through actions and how they were open to supporting each other and being conscious of their strengths and weaknesses. The second analysis was developed through Engeström’s (1999) CHAT third-generation CHAT framework. The importance of this analysis through CHAT was not only the understanding of the structure of students’ meanings or music-art program activity but the emotional dimension that transformed students’ actions. Within the CHAT analysis, four main tensions were encountered to understand students’ meanings. Also, through the analysis, these expressions from students’ meanings were seen as expressions of agency. This dissertation showed how students created a community environment through the connections with diverse organizations where they participated. The MABP engaged students in an environment where the connection with different art forms such as visual art enhanced their music learning experiences. The findings of this study have implications for research, teaching and policy in music and arts-based programs in low-income communities.

Subject Area

Art education|Early childhood education|Music education|Latin American Studies|Multicultural Education|Developmental psychology|Educational evaluation|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Saldana Corral, Claudia, "Art as a Mediating Tool: Children and Learning in a Music and Arts-Based After School Program" (2019). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI13883765.