Guest Post by Faigie of Edu Art 4 Kids
Did you know that art can be an amazing conduit to learning?
Most people think of art for kids as something nice you do with kids to fill time. Maybe by coloring in some holiday pages or doing some arts and crafts?
If you are a traditionalist, then art would have nothing to do with education, except for those so named coloring pages that are supposed to help them “review” material.
Education in the traditional sense is Math, English, Science, Geography and maybe a little art where you learn art history and the elements of art.
In some of the better schools there are more decent art programs because they understand the importance of art in education.
If you are are homeschooling your child or spending lots of time after school on educational activities with them, you can actually use art to help your child learn by means of art as opposed to separating art from the actual learning.
The place I first heard about this type of education was from a book I read when I was in graduate school called An Experiment in Education by Sybil Marshall. This was about woman’s quest who was sent out to a small village in England to teach a small group of children. Kind of like a one room schoolhouse situation.
She decided to experiment with an approach that she believed in and did not use art as an extra curricular activity. Instead, she used art to help teach. She felt, correctly, that this type of teaching makes learning more interesting and therefor more easily assimilated.
Progressive educational philosophy tells us that kids learn best from their own experiences. Children are always going to learn fractions better by cutting up oranges and pizza then seeing a teacher make marks on the board.
There needs to be a way however, to concertize many of the children’s experiences and art she found, was the perfect conduit.
There is a trend to think of art for kids in two different ways. Rigid, traditional, copycat do as I say art, or let the kids do whatever they want kind of art.
Traditional art is boring and confining and for children that don’t have a lot of experience, but on the other hand, being told to make whatever they want can be very frightening. As a result the children pick very safe subjects, like hearts and rainbows and a house with a chimney and a tree next to it. Which they make over and over again.
When children have rich experiences and many experiences with various art media, they produce amazing art with little instruction.
Experiences can be trips they’ve been on, events in their lives or the subject matter they are learning.
They can then be given paint, pencils, markers, brushes clay to express what they are learning about.
This burns the learning into their brain more than any test or textbook can do.
Here is an example from that book to explain what I mean. When Ms. Marshal was teaching the children in her small school, she realized that they knew nothing about the geography of their area. She turned this lack of knowledge into a full unit. First they made a huge map of their region. All the children took part.
Painting and cutting and making dioramas of the various parts of their region was what they spent time doing.
As they created, questions came up about where to put what and they had to research the answers and then create accordingly. (there was no internet then). They made a huge map of their greater area in clay. They made hills and valleys and cliffs and estuaries and learned all these terms while creating. They created storms with water and watched what happened when the water fell from the hills to the valleys. This also led to creative writing about buried treasure.
To take it even further, they included math into the equation by discovering which crops were grown on each field. They were able to tally the percentages of different crops. They then did a poultry census and domestic animal census. They used geometric principles to guess acreage and added it all up using the decimal system.
When children have to paint and draw and sculpt something they are learning about they have to actually use their brains to figure out how things need to look and there is a tremendous amount of learning that goes into it. As a result it becomes part of them which is what good learning does.
The project approach which is one of the popular progressive modes of education is very close to this style of teaching.
The Reggio Emilia approach another very popular approach, teaches kids all modes of media so they become proficient in all of them and can then express themselves and their learning through the media they know so well.
Even if you cannot do a true project approach or Reggio Emilia method there is still much to be said for trying to incorporate as much art as you can into your children learning. The children’s learning will be greatly enriched.
Faigie Kobre is the owner of Edu Art 4 Kids, an art website for parents and teachers teaching the best kinds of art for kids development. Even if you have no degree in education, you now have the opportunity to learn the secrets that progressive, professional teachers use to help your children become better learners, increase their self esteem and inspire amazing creativity through the free report How the wrong crafts can harm your child’s IQ and right kind makes them better learners.