The unobvious answer is a rigorous, focused, inter-curricular, certified instructed art program. The fact is that students who take art outscore their peers on tests like the SAT by an average of 100 points. My own students outscored their peers by an average of 155 points. They are also 50% less likely to fail other State mandated exams. This is also why schools that implement STEAM programs, outperform schools that promote STEM: The "A" (Art) is an important key to student success!
This is not because students have been allowed to "express their feelings" or even given room to "explore outside the box." Art, if taught right, is the only subject where creative problem solving is an every-day skill. It is the only subject that connects, in concrete ways, to all other curricula illuminating the connections between subjects for deeper understanding. If you think that is baloney, consider this: when we grid, measure, and draw—we use geometry. When we make sculptures—we use engineering. When we mix colors—we reveal information about physics. When we create illustrations for stories—we learn about literature. When we review the styles of art from da Vinci to Bansky—we teach history. When we write about art—we strengthen these skills. When we create works of art, we solve complex visual problems.
Sadly, not all art programs are created equal. After years of being marginalized many art teachers have succumbed to the lowest forms of art education that include "follow along" lessons with student projects that look nearly identical to each other, as if they came from a Crayola factory. That is not the kind of program I am writing about. It's quite possible you have never seen the kind of art program that I am writing about so you may have no reference point. Even some art teachers do not fully understand the potential gains that are made from an inter-curricular approach. Some bemoan the time constraints, tight budgets, lack of support; all valid and real concerns. But a valid connected program can be taught with very little in the way of supplies. I'd argue it could be run with pencils and copy paper though it would hardly be ideal. Students do thrive when given the opportunity to work with multi-sensory materials, but the lack of such supplies is not an excuse for a bad program. Lack of training and support however, may be.
I would invite you to visit my blog, particularly the tabs to sub pages. They will illustrate multi-curricular units. This approach can be done from pre-K all the way through 12th grade. I know because I have taught this way at all levels, even in a post secondary environment. This approach can also be done in a traditional setting or a TAB classroom. It takes a little more planning, a little more time to make overt connections, but it is possible. Follow these links for additional information, research, documentation, and proof.
Link 1, Link 2, Link 3, Link 4, Link 5, Link 6, Link 7