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I want you to imagine being the first person to understand how to draw a buffalo on a cave wall.
What would drive you to do that?
First, you would have to understand how to take mud, or whatever, make marks on the wall.
Then you would have to understand the animal you’re drawing enough to recreate it’s body parts.
Then you would have to understand how to use your hands to make the marks the right size and shape.
Art really takes some thought, planning, and reasoning. And because of that, art needs to be a priority supplement to our science education.
As I have said before, our current education system does a real disservice to our kids because science curricula often focus on memorization and completely leaves out exploration, how to perform a well-controlled experiment, and logic and reasoning.
It also leaves out art which, as I demonstrated above, is an integral part of science.
Science is about exploring new things, studying them in detail to gain a complete understanding of something, and using it to create something useful like cars, antibiotics, robots for microsurgery, etc.
Even when creation was not the driving process of science, art has been an integral part of the process. For example, early botantists and paleontologists did not have a camera to take a picture of their specimens. They studied art so that they could draw accurate representations of their data.
Art is essential for teaching critical thinking skills, too. According to this study, first graders who were behind in math and reading, either caught up or surpassed their peers after 7 months of arts and music training.
This press release from Mississippi State University (via Science Daily) reports on a 2013 study that found “when teachers reinforce academic concepts with the arts, students learn more and score higher on standardized tests.”
This study looked at the results of several tests across grade levels and several subjects like math, reading, writing, and science, of schools that are participating in the arts integration program to that of schools not participating. They found that test scores in all subjects were significantly higher in schools that participated in the arts integration program.
How to Teach Art
Homeschoolers have a lot of options on how to teach art. First of all, I let my kids draw all they want. My current 4-year-old is obsessed with drawing dinosaurs so guess what I am finding all over my house? Construction paper full to bursting of dinosaurs.
Then you could have your kids take music lessons, community theater, or art classes.
You could use Youtube for how to videos. Or you could buy an expensive curriculum.
Your choice is going to be dependent on many things like how interested your child is in any particular field of art, their age, and how you want the art to support other areas of learning.
The great thing about art (and science) is that older kids can lead their own learning. If you are looking for some great foundational support for teaching visual art to younger kids, I am reviewing a great resource for you! Evan-Moor Educational Publisher’s How to Teach Art to Children, grade 1-6.
When you purchase this book, you actually get 2 books in one. You get the How to Teach Art to Children and a free ebook of featured artists’ work to really round out the experience and to add some fun stuff for the kids to try to recreate. Instructions for claiming for your free ebook are found on the front cover of How to Teach Art to Children.
The Set Up
This book is for grades 1-6 because each activity is customizable, except for a few, to fit the child’s ability.
It begins with a short list of supplies you will need. You will not need everything on the list for each project. This master list is more of a guide for the things you need for the entire book.
Opposite the list is a short glossary. The lessons lack a vocabulary list, so mark the glossary for easy access as you teach each lesson.
It is divided into 2 parts - Learning the 7 elements of visual art and using them.
Learning the 7 Elements of Art is the first part. Before the first lesson, on lines, there is a short Resource Page with tips on enrichment activities and examples on how to talk about art in a meaningful way with kids.
Each lesson is broken up into several art projects. Each project includes a small paragraph on the point of the lesson, a materials list, step by step instructions and reproducibles as needed.
Using the Elements of Art is part two. This part also starts off with a Resource page outlining how to use each of the following lessons.
Each lesson in this part revolves around an artist or type of art. There is a short background reference for each lesson, some example discussion topics, then step by step instructions to help kids recreate the art.
I love how this book is about teaching the kids the basics of art and giving them the tools to talk about art in a meaningful way.
This is important because it is these skills that encourage scientific and critical thinking. We are asking them to take their basic knowledge from completing the project and use it to analyze another work. It is this ability to apply their knowledge that makes great science student.s
I really cannot stress the importance of getting kids to look at something, and decide what is important, speculate about cause and effect, and support their conclusions. This ability is the very basis of analysis and argument.
Some of the lessons have hints to make it easier or for other modifications that may help with cross-curricular activities like adding descriptive words to rubbings while exploring texture.
Some are quite hands-on, like the color mixing activity. Kids mix food coloring to see the effects themselves, and a reproducible encourages kids to explore mixing with 3 colors. No rules! A hint is printed on the page to use small pieces of playdough for a sensory experience.
The projects are quite varied in materials, including projects centered around paper, clay, oil and chalk pastels, paint, making stamps and simple books! It really provides a nice, rounded experience.
The second part, Using the Elements of Art introduces kids to specific artists and types of art from other cultures. This section uses the accompanying ebook that I talked about before. Each section of part 2 has a partner page in the ebook that you can print and hang up or project on the wall, smart board, etc.
Each lesson is spread over 2 pages with a list of elements of art that it reinforces at the top.
I really appreciate the small paragraph with background information about the artist or type of art at the beginning of each lesson. There is also a short list of suggestions for further reading and a small section titled “Talk about” that gives some short facts and conversation starters for your class.
This makes setting up each lesson pretty easy. Read one of the short suggestions, look at some of the extra work from the ebook, demonstrate the project, then talk about it while the children are working on it.
My biggest problem with this book is that some of the projects seem a little much for younger kids so you can’t do the harder projects in a group of kids with a lot of littles. I may let my oldest do the harder projects, like drawing a skyline to scale, while I let my younger kids do something more hands-on, like color mixing.
Also, the projects don’t have suggested ages/grade levels on them so some are hard to tell which ages are best for them. I feel strongly that with a little creativity most projects will work for most ages, but that means it will probably take a bit of prep. For example, there is one project about contrasting colors where you simply glue a shape onto a square with the shapes’ color in high contrast. It’s colorful and easy, but younger kids will either need the pieces precut or very simple shapes to cut out.
Last, all of the projects in the second section, Using the Elements of Art, seem to fit older kids better than younger ones. So I feel like you really need to complete part , The Elements of Art, before trying to do anything with part 2.
To learn more about How to Teach Art to Children,click here.
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