Art matters in more way than one. Unfortunately in many public schools, when funding has been cut, the arts is first to go. I am here to say that I think it should be completely opposite. As a teacher, art was one of my favorite subjects to teach. More importantly, it was one of my favorite subjects for my students to learn. As a parent, art has been one of the most motivating and engaging topics my children have learned. I could see the difference in my child's enthusiasm and overall thinking of the world when they had an actual "art teacher" and art class the last two years at our international school. The teacher worked hard at integrating the arts with subjects the classroom teachers was working on, but the vocabulary and perspective my children learned with using different mediums and being exposed to different art forms was vast and diverse and helped them grow as diverse global citizens... a goal we should all want for our children. Obviously, an art teacher in most public schools is seen as an "extra" and not as a necessity.
What we need in education, however is more art! The research tells us again and again that art enhances test scores increasing academic achievement, improves better attitudes (behavior), teaches fine motor skills, and increases critical thinking skills and creativity.
Even when there is not art teacher, a teacher can do a lot to integrate the arts into the classroom. It is an additional responsibility and I believe in order to do well, the teacher should probably have a passion for art.
As a classroom teacher myself and an art lover, I looked forward to our Friday afternoons we saved for our research and discovery into our artist of the month. We studied famous artists, local artists, and learned much more than just the life or art type (impressionism, cubism, abstract, etc.) but about the world. We integrated literacy standards and technology standards as we researched about Michelangelo and then laid on our backs to draw our own Sistine Chapels. We used a website to research Leonardo DaVinci that entered our names one way, and came out how Leonardo would have written them- backwards. We created Starry Nights, power points of our favorite artists, visited art museums, and our own Pablo Picasso abstract "silly faces" to integrate with our president reports. The memories I look back upon fondly. It is also what my students who are now in their 20's told me was one of their favorite things we did together and opened their mind to the world.
In fact, one of my first graders loved our art learning so much she worked to save her allowance all year so she could go see the "Sistine Chapel" in person. She did chores around the house all year and by the end of the year had earned enough for airfare to Rome. Her mother took her in the summer and the experience and knowledge she gained was incredible!
Now we can't all take our children to Rome, but as parents we can make sure we are taking our children to art galleries, museums, exposing them to different landmarks with sculptures, and provide them with spaces and art supplies to create their own masterpieces at home.
Screen Free Week is the perfect time to break out the colored pencils, crayons, markers, oil pastels and paints (if you have them) and create some art together! Upcycling is also a part of art that has seen an increase in engagement with students these past years... so let your children create sculptures out of recycling, cut wood into models, make garden art, paint canvasses, and enjoy the world of art.