On Art in the Classroom

Can you imagine a society with no art? No form of creative expression? Inherent in human beings is the desire to create and the desire to express. As teachers we would be amiss if we did not provide outlets for students to let their creativity shine. Creativity is a vital part of solving problems and to develop creativity is to develop problem solving skills. To exclude art is to remove a part of the human spirit.

 

In America, the land known as “the cultural melting pot”, there are so many different types of ethnicity, culture, and ideology that it sometimes creates social tensions when differing groups interact. To assist in allowing the different groups to understand and collaborate with each other, schools highlight multicultural contributions to our society. We should be democratic, or “of the people” in how we teach art. “The teacher must access and utilize the students’ sociocultural values and beliefs and those of the culture of the community when planning art curricula.” (Wasson, Stuhr & Petrovich-Maniki, 1990) Interestingly the dictionary lists the following as one of the definitions of democracy: “the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges” (Merriam Webster). In this definition we see the beginnings of an ideal that is foundational to our country, “that all men are created equal”. Art provides an exciting avenue to expose and familiarize students to the diversity of our society and to construct an attitude of equality.

In a time of global recession, where budgets are getting axed all over the world, simple solutions are needed to address the shortcomings created in schools produced by of all of this budget cutting. A simple and effective answer to this idea is convergence along with integration.

“The reason why arts integration holds so much potential for the classroom is the power of art to engage students in experiential learning, which is the process for making meaning directly from the learning experience as opposed to academic learning, the study of a subject without the direct learning from experiencing that subject. But there is a distinction between classrooms that use arts as a resource and classrooms that fully integrate art in the planning and implementation of curriculum.” (“Strategies for art,”)

If teachers can be more multifaceted in their instructional method, then they can help to address deficiencies created by the loss of teachers in our schools. This can be accomplished with knowledge of the basic elements and principles of art. A teacher versed in these elements and principles should be able to effectively introduce art education into other subject areas. For example, one idea to include art into mathematics is in creating self portraits. The human face has certain proportions that are easily introducible into lessons on measurement, proportion, and fractions.

Our knowledge of learning has come a long way and this should guide our approach to instruction. Thanks to research on learning styles we have come to appreciate the idea that lessons need to be hands on and comprehensive so that students with different learning styles can absorb the information. John Dewey had lots of ideas about art in the classroom. “For Dewey, art functions as experience.” (Goldblatt, 2006) Anytime we can incorporate hands on experience with mandated material we are doing the students a great service. Anyone who has ever learned something knows that we learn most effectively by doing. Jobs demand workers with experience, experience makes one effective. Experience teaches us.

We can refine students’ experiences with art by applying them in developmentally appropriate ways across the graphic stages of development defined by Viktor Lowenfeld. These stages are “scribbling, pre-schematic, schematic, dawning realism, pseudorealism, and period of decision/crisis”. (Lowenfeld, 1978) The age and abilities of each child should come into play when we are integrating art into lessons. A student in the scribbling stage could not be expected to create recognizable images much in the same way that a kindergartner should not be expected to comprehend calculus.

Something that schools should strive against is unleashing a generation of processed drones that cannot solve problems and only excel when they can do what they are told. Students should be creative problem solvers that can be autonomous. The ability to solve problems comes into play in every subject in school and in every aspect of life. The more a school can encourage creative problem solving and innovation, the more successful that school will be; not only the school but the country and even the world. Just think if Henry Ford never built a car, if Thomas Edison never invented an incandescent light bulb. The whole world benefits from the creativity of its inhabitants. Maria Montessori capitalized on this idea and her schools for gifted and talented students are still in operation today. What better means of encouraging creativity than with art in the classroom. Students who can create and contribute, will take pride in their work, and ultimately will be successful.

In conclusion, the reasons for implementing art into the classroom are abundant. Art encourages creativity and innovation. Art exposes students to new and different cultures. Art integration gives students a personal experience with subject matter. Teachers versed in art practices are better suited to meet the needs of schools facing modern budget crises. These teachers can be likened to figures of a modern renaissance that revive education by inserting the arts into the classic core curricula.

 

References

Merriam webster. In Merriam Webster, inc. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democracy

Strategies for art integration. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/collection/strategies-arts-integration

Wasson, R. F., Stuhr, P. L., & Petrovich-Maniki, L. (1990). Teaching art in the multicultural classroom: Six position statements. Studies in Art Education, 31(4), 234-246. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/pss/1320543

Goldblatt, Patricia (2006) “How John Dewey’s Theories Underpin Art and Art Education,” Education and Culture: Vol. 22: Iss. 1, Article 4.
Available at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/eandc/vol22/iss1/art4

Lowenfeld, V. (1978). Creative and mental growth. Retrieved from http://www.users.totalise.co.uk/~kbroom/Lectures/children.htm

Dictionary.com. (2005). Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/renaissance

 

 

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