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Promoting the Visual Arts in Our Lessons

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agosto 3, 2021

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By: Donna Fields

Welcome to Let’s Blog. We’re looking forward to sharing with you the most innovative practices – methods you can use immediately in your online or your face-to-face lessons.

The visual arts promote ‘social imagination’, which is the ability to visualize a different world – an alternate reality. The arts give a safe space for students to create a fictitious existence and compare that to the real one around them, and so create alternate possibilities of how the world could be.

Alfonso-Benlliure & Motos
Thinking and Creativity, 2021

Art is a subject which has no substitute, stimulates more cognitive skills than almost all the others combined, and yet, for some reason, comes last in most of our educational practices. We often see it as an ancillary subject that we can include when we have extra time, as a reward for our students if they’ve finished all their other tasks, or as something another teacher will address. And yet the benefits of the visual arts in bilingual studies are so numerous that it’s counterintuitive that they are not our first priorities in planning. – that all other subjects stem from projects which begin with one artistic form or another. In fact, the importance of the arts in connecting the youth of today – emotionally and linguistically -is so great that it has become part of the 4th United Nations. Sustainable Development goals.

Why are they so important? Let’s look at just some of the reasons…

We know that the priorities in education have been – and are becoming yet again – more focused on external benchmarks such as results on standardized tests and entrance exams, for instance. However, this trend leaves a huge group of students behind who are not on the track towards the institutions that measure success through these measures.

And even for those who are headed towards more traditional tracts, receiving a more rounded education can only benefit them in whatever career they choose. If we want concrete evidence of this, Steve Jobs, for instance, was known to only employ people with passion, particularly for problem solving, “having a vision, and being able to articulate it so people around can understand it and get a consensus on a common vision”. This is more likely to happen if the candidates had the opportunity to strengthen divergent thinking, to be encouraged in their creativity, and to learn to trust in their instincts and make them visible in various ways.

But there’s more. The visual arts are not just tied to professional considerations; they have so many curative and proactive elements that studies show that they are found to help adults with mental illnesses reintegrate into society. Consequently, implementing these resources at an early age is powerful as a preventative manner of helping our students to deal with the stresses and challenges of the modern world.

How do the visual arts encourage creativity and, above all divergent thinking? Let’s look specifically at drama in education – using role playing, reciting poetry and making it visible, using playback theater to give expression to feelings and life events – the studies show that the arts foster ‘social imagination’: the ability to visualize a different world, an alternate reality. By their very nature of giving a safe space to create a fictitious world, drama encourages students to compare the real world to what they imagine, and so they create alternate possibilities of how the world could be. Scholastically, the effects of including all types of art on a daily basis are sobering – sobering for those of us who were never informed of how powerful they can be and so up until now haven’t focused on them with any real intention. When we do include them in our daily lesson planning – from pre-school to university – the results are formidable:

What can we do? Well, it’s not as complicated as it may seem. Organizations such as HundrED (Finland) are dedicated to finding as many resources as possible that promote the visual arts for both face-to-face and virtual classrooms. Their mission regarding the arts is: ‘Let’s cooperate and collaborate together on turning ideas into action so that we can help every child develop the Visual Arts skills they need to flourish in life.’

In HundrED’s December, 2020 report, not only did they include 18 exceptional innovations geared towards aiding you in integrating the visual arts in. your lessons, they interviewed different stakeholders to get more of an idea of what was needed on an international level. Below are examples of three interviewees answering two key questions about the arts in school:

  1. How can visual expression be better integrated throughout learning in your school context?
  2. What do you see as the biggest barrier to your suggestion and how can we best overcome that?

Below are four resources from the report that you can use to connect your students with others of their age in different parts of the world:

So that’s a quick introduction to using the visual arts in your lessons to stimulate active learning and so many developmental skills. Do you dare to try some of the resources?

See you again soon!

In the meantime… please share the changes you see in your students as become more positively active in the classroom!!

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