Art is Smart - Part Two

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

In a previous post, I talked about the importance of teaching art to children (of all ages). Now, I will talk about how you (as a parent or teacher) can help the young people in your life, learn about the arts...

Take Field Trips
Visiting a museum or art gallery is imperative when teaching about art and art history. Looking at art in a book, magazine or on the Internet is a good start, but it just isn't the same as seeing the work up close and personal. Most museums and galleries offer tours - specifically for school-aged children, especially if there is a special exhibit on display. Contact the educational department of the museum or gallery and ask if they have any resource materials you can share with your students prior to the trip. Once there, take time to look at works of art that interest all of your students.If it is impossible for you to visit a museum or gallery, do look through art books or view works online. Encourage students to pick out their favorite painting, drawings and sculptures. Discuss the materials the artist used and compare them with those your students have used in their own work.

Talk About It
When looking at art, encourage children to say what they feel about the art that they see. Remind them that there are no wrong answers. Some questions to ask might include:

  • Why do you think the artist might have chosen the colors he did? Do they make sense?
  • How was the paint, pencil or pastel applied? Could the artist have used a palette knife or perhaps even fingers? The texture of the paint will help you determine this.
  • What kinds of lines do you see? Are they straight, or wavy? What shapes do you see?
  • What parts of the work are your favorites? Why?
  • Does the painting make you think of things in motion? How does the artist show movement (through line or color for example)?

Above all else, when looking at or talking about art, children should not be made to feel discouraged because they have difficulty analyzing a work. Tell them that the more they look, the more they will see.

Research suggests that early exposure to visual art, music or drama promotes activity in the brain. As you integrate art into your lessons, remember, the aim of art education is not to turn children into professional artists, but to teach them to live fuller lives. Through an appreciation of the arts, people gain a greater understanding of a variety of human experiences. They will then extract more from their own experiences -- whatever they may be.

No... Really.

This article first appeared in Classroom Leadership, a newsletter for K-12 Classroom Teachers, published by the American Society of Curriculum Developers.

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