Opening Doors to Learning through Arts
Teaching through arts for learning sake’ is wonderful but scarcely being done in schools. Let’s see how Arts amalgamation in teaching-learning can bring significant development in the academic as well as holistic growth among children in our schools.
So often while visiting my school’s classrooms I engage children into writing a short poem on the planets of the universe, write a letter to any one of their favourite planet or star, draw a picture of their darling family member and write a short description of it, or collect a picture of an important tool they use daily and write its composition or process, organize a 10 minute mock market, selling things or advertize any product they like most or role play parts of speech in grammar class or figure of speech in literature. They all do wonders and learn with a smile.
Recently a group of researchers at Otago University in New Zealand after doing a comprehensive survey and research on students have stated that engaging children every day in creative arts activities not only helps them to engage in productive workout but enhance their academic backup nevertheless facilitating their interest in learning.
Arts and Learning:
Our education system as a whole places more importance on academic development. As a result, arts based teaching-learning practices are being reduced or even eliminated from classrooms to accommodate more didactic teaching methods. Many Art educators and child development specialists recognize that the arts are not a ‘frill’ or enrichment activity, but are basic to education. Studies and researches have shown that teaching and learning using arts pedagogy can increase student’s cognitive and social development. The arts can be a critical link for students in developing the crucial thinking skills and motivation they need to achieve at higher levels. Child development is a sequential process as learning develops from simple to complex and concrete to abstract.
Integrating Art into the Classroom
‘I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand’. This quote from the Chinese philosopher and reformer Confucius has been recognized by teachers and educationists since 5th century BC and has wider implications in teaching-learning that focuses on learning by doing than learning by hearing or listening.
Art is an outstanding tool for teaching not only developmental skills, but also academic subjects such as math, science, and literacy. The most effective learning takes place when children do something related to the topic they are learning. When children study any given concept, they learn it better and retain it longer if they do an art activity that reinforces that learning. In our school, every day I plan arts activities for our children that include preparing a ‘school newspaper’, dramatization of historical events in classrooms, organizing mock market, advertizing a product by children, composing poems on any subject, teaching grammar topics through role play, etc.
Seeding Arts into Curriculum:
Despite many successful efforts leading to integration of curriculum into other core subjects at schools, embedding arts into curriculum has often been deviated from school curriculum and is treated secondary to it. Scientific researches and other studies have demonstrated that arts education can enhance students’ maths and language skills and improve test scores which in turn increase chances of higher education and good jobs in the future. Nowadays, as the need for academic development is higher and teaching learning is more dynamic, therefore, it is of utmost importance to use arts liberally.
Arts, in one of its form, can enhance the learning of a child in a science subject. For example, in fourth grade science classroom on the classification of flower, integrated visual arts pedagogy was used. The teaching member used the close observation of a flower taking realistic versus abstract art. Students visualized and drew realistic drawings based on the composition of a flower. Then they made abstract art based on the scientific qualities of the flower. When the students are engaged in hands-on experiences through arts and are creating learning, they are deepening their level of understanding about a specific topic.
Learning through Arts is Comprehensive:
Arts are the mother of all learning. Learning in arts is comprehensive in the true sense of the word. It opens all door of learning in collaboration and creativity which is the hallmark to learning. It is true that children learn through different intelligences and reflection of oneself and one’s own creations is an essential tool for growth. Curriculum laced with arts strikes all domains of learning: socio-emotional, physical, cognitive (intellectual), and communication (language and literacy). An arts based curriculum designed to support children’s learning in a more specific area such as literacy or mathematics is a valuable resource and provides additional ideas to help children learn in that domain. It is considered a supplementary curriculum, while it complements a programme selection of a comprehensive tool that supports children’s integrated learning and development.
Arts for Academic Growth:
Arts as an academic performance enhancement tool has been widely accepted across the education world. Studies show that there is a correlation between art and other achievements. A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate. In my classroom, I have observed noticeable academic progress in students if the teachers use arts inputs in teaching. Children writing a story on a given picture, some academically challenged children preparing a model on volcanic eruption, a group of children preparing for a dramatic presentation on ‘Villa for Sale’ in class IX, a child collecting seeds of plants in the school compound really bring learning that works wonders.
Before I end this piece, I just sit and contemplate over the tremendous power of arts in a child’s life. Lets us go through this composition I scribbled while the class was engaged in a project on numbers.
Ashok Singh Guleria teacher of 21 years standing is a post- graduate in English Literature. He writes on pedagogical issues and children’s behavioural concerns. Currently, he works as Head of Department of English, curriculum planner and Academic coordinator cum Teachers’ Trainer at the Akal Academy Group of Schools run by Kalghidhar Education Trust, Baru Sahib, at Kajri in Uttar Pradesh. The author strives to develop and facilitate the building of a robust and sustainable teaching-learning fraternity embodied with a strong sense of work culture through which initiative and change can emerge in an educational institution. He can be reached out at firstname.lastname@example.org