Art at the Heart of What We Do…

So this past week I had a fun conversation with our outstanding IB Art teacher, Greg Giles. It was all about the importance of Art in education and the role that creativity plays in unlocking a person’s ability to learn, to be inspired, and to find their best selves. We took a few minutes to dream about what it might be like to design our own school, with the Art room as the focal point of the entire campus. We’d start with a huge, open space that would become the center of the learning environment…it would be a place that teachers and students and parents would flock to every minute of the day, and it would be a mash-up of a media studies space, a maker space, a play space, and a world class Art space, which would literally be the hub of our community wheel. There would be music and books and collaborative learning pods and healthy food and fresh fruit smoothies and this space would drive all that we did as a school…we were giddy at the end of the conversation, wishing that we had the money and the resources to bring this dream to life, and when Greg left to go teach a class I started thinking about the incredible value and worth that Art has in all aspects of our lives, and whether or not we’re doing enough to put Art at the heart of all we do.

 

I decided to do a little experiment the next morning with a few different grade levels to see what they thought about themselves as artists, and I bet you all know how that went. I asked two simple questions to dozens of first graders, fifth graders, and eighth graders, and the answers weren’t that surprising…a little sad, but not that surprising. I asked, “Do you see yourself as an artist?”, and “Do you love going to Art class?”… I listened intently not only to their answers but to how their faces responded when they were mulling the questions around in their heads. Every single one of the first graders answered with an emphatic “yes” to both, and continued on with anecdotes about their love of painting and creating and singing and dancing, and their faces lit up like mini works of art in themselves…when I asked the fifth graders, all of them said that they loved going to Art class, but I only had about half of the kids answer “yes” to seeing themselves as an artist…it also took a lot longer for them to think about their answers before they gave their response. I even had a number of kids ask me what I meant, like it was some sort of trick question or something, and at this point I was starting to see the trend. When I got to the eighth graders, again they all answered that they enjoyed being in Art class, but it was down to less than a fifth of the nearly 30 kids that I asked who answered “yes” to whether they see themselves as artists or not. I left them wondering about what it is and how it happens that as we grow older we start to lose our inner artist…what is that about? The most troubling thing about the answers that the older kids gave was that many of them qualified their answer with, “I’m a terrible painter” or “I can’t draw very well at all”, as if being an “artist” had only to do with being able to paint or draw a picture.

 

There is plenty of research out there which definitively shows the incredible benefits that art has on the development of young people. Things like motor skills, language development, decision making, visual learning, inventiveness, cultural awareness, improved academic performance and so much more, so why isn’t Art more explicitly embedded into all that we do? I wonder if we’re doing enough to incorporate a variety of art options into our assessments, and our daily lesson planning, and our curriculum writing, and all the rest. Art isn’t and shouldn’t just be a stand-alone subject that students can choose only as an elective…I bet it could be a part of the many learning opportunities that they encounter across all subject areas each and every day. We need to foster a sense of creativity and artistic value in every student, so that when they reach High School and beyond, and deep into adulthood, they are still as feverish and eager and passionate as first graders. I’m asking you all this week to think about how you’re using art in your day to day lives with our kids, and whether or not you’re doing enough to foster that inner creative artist in each and every one of them. Have a conversation with Greg or Ana or Valeria or Brian, and use their expertise to provide more artistic opportunities in your classes. While you are doing that, I’ll be dreaming about how we can design that new art hub, so that art is literally at the heart of all that we do. Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other…Oh yeah, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all you Mom’s out there…To my own Mom, I love you more than you know!

 

Quote of the Week…..

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

– Pablo Picasso

 

TED Talk – Why Art Matters (Dr. Linda Nathan)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Odbcty42MaM

 

TED Talk – Teaching Art or Teaching to Think Like an Artist (Cindy Foley)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcFRfJb2ONk

 

Teacher Appreciation Week Video! Teachers have the hardest job in the world…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2LNK2MW_xQ

 

Articles and Websites:

http://www.edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development

http://www.teachertube.com/video/the-importance-of-art-in-education-112187

http://www.education.com/reference/article/art-important-young-children/

http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=509

http://www.arteducators.org/

 

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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