I Believe Art Fosters Learning
While driving on cold dark foggy early mornings along winding tortuous rural roads with heart stopping drop-offs, I ask myself, “What am I doing?” As an outreach artist who drives hundreds of miles to bring art to the classroom, I know the answer once I enter the third grade classroom and twenty-five eager faces greet me. I do it because sharing the joy of art is the most rewarding and exciting profession.
I believe that we all have the gift to create and unless this gift is honored and nurtured it will remain dormant.
You might ask how do you nurture this precious gift so children can grow up to be creative and imaginative adults? I believe there are two essential components. First let nature be the teacher. Let a child discover the outside world and marvel at the wonder of trees. Let clouds and stars pique the imagination. Open their eyes to the science of rocks and insects and the beauty of wildflowers and sunsets. Learning how to see requires nothing more than just taking time for looking, walking and exploring.
The other essential is to engage in art activities. For those who think art is only about making pretty things I must explain how art works. Art involves hands on activities which engages multiple senses such as: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. Research has shown that especially for early learners, using the senses helps the cognitive part of the brain to develop thus facilitating learning, focusing, problem solving, self-expression and literacy.
For example, A child learns about different cloud formations and then reinforces his understanding by painting a threatening cumulus nimbus. Children learn to distinguish three dimensional forms from two dimensional forms by flattening a ball or sphere of clay into a circle, or learn to count by making a necklace of colorful beads.
There is compelling research supporting art’s role in learning. The brain seeks patterns and if something doesn’t make sense, the brain rejects it. Understanding patterns is facilitated by engaging children in hands-on activities. Children learn by doing and this is why teaching to the test does a great disservice.The successful development of higher order thinking relies on motor skills such as drawing, coloring, cutting, pasting, moving, dancing, playing instruments, singing, just to mention a few, which fosters full development of the frontal lobes.
I always tell students young and old, that art won’t bite and they should not be afraid to engage in art activities because they will learn from doing and the more they try, the better they get and it’s lots of fun. So, turn off the TV and computers; take a walk, stop, look and listen. Keep, paints, pencils, paper and model magic in that special place. Free your imagination to play and create!
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