Is Art for Everybody? Yes, It is!

Foster creative thinking by incorporating art into your core subjects.

By Alicia Johnson

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In his book, A Whole New Mind, author Daniel H. Pink says "The future belongs to...creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning-makers. These people...will now reap society's richest rewards and share its greatest joys." He is trying to encourage a new way to think about preparing our students for the new globalized economy that they will enter upon graduation. Pink's theory is that because so many companies, in so many countries, can all make the same products for pennies, the only way to stand out is through creativity; creative marketing, creative packaging, creative product design. Is art for everybody? Yes, because if our students are going to be marketable when they get out of school, they are probably going to have to be somewhat creative. Art fosters creativity.

Before you read on, I hope you will take the time to view the 19-minute inspirational TED speech by creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson, who believes that we are "educating people out of their creative capacities."

How can we teach art or creativity in a non-art classroom? Should we even bother trying? If we want our pupils to have every advantage possible, we should try to incorporate creativity into all of our teaching. Not only will we be helping them with skills that will aid them in the real world, but we will also be reaching those who have learning styles that respond to more readily to artistic educational approaches. What are some ways to bring art into everyone's classroom? Here are some ideas to get started.

Math 

If you have never seen the mathcraft website, take a minute to check it out now. The whole site focuses on mathematically-inspired art and architecture with many how-to's to help you along.

Another simple idea found in The New York State Alliance for Arts Education online publication, Arts for Learning Life, suggests that "Students might listen to a simple melody, follow the notes on a musical staff, count the times each note occurs, and graph the results. Later, they will come to understand that the musical staff is actually a graph itself, in which pitch or frequency is the y coordinate and time is the x coordinate."

History

The Denver Art Museum website has some great ideas on how to incorporate art into your classroom. For a response to studying a great historical figure, the site provides a wonderful, artistically inspired lesson using a particular piece of art to discuss and inspire creativity.  Individuals or groups will create, in a collage format, an artistic rendering of a historical leader.

English

Art and English seem to naturally go hand-in-hand. But often we focus mostly on oral and written communication; forgetting that words are just one way to express ideas. Art in an English classroom could include a simple compare and contrast discussion on images used in ad techniques. Pupils could create a video PSA to accompany their persuasive speech. One time while searching for a current event to discuss, I discovered a news article about a hacker who hacked into the Texas Highway Department's computer system and changed a highway sign to read Zombies Ahead. After discussing with my class the need for a responsible use of technology, I then used the image of the highway sign as a prompt for some creative writing. Finally, here is a great article on a BBC site that discusses the pro's and con's of using art in English class.

Science

Take your future scientists on an online field trip to the Exploratorium site. There is a fun link that allows interactive experiences with science and music. Also, the Origins link provides stunning images as it guides viewers through a very visual tour of man's search for our origins. There are many links be explored. Your class can learn from these sites and also become inspired to express their scientific knowledge artistically.

Remember, if our students are to be fully able to express their knowledge, thoughts, and ideas in a way that will catch the world's attention, we will have to give them time to practice this in the classroom; all classrooms.

Incorporate art and music into core subjects:

Sculpting a Lesson

The J. Paul Getty Museum Education Department has created a lesson that fulfills both middle school and high school standards requiring the ability to recognize persuasion techniques in the media as well as a strong ability to deliver a persuasive argument. This activity can be used in a study of art, history or English. The detailed lesson plan's main focus is to address how images have a persuasive effect and influence on audiences. Learners will make connections to modern media's persuasive approaches and become more proficient at recognizing persuasive techniques being used. Then, with a group, they will create their own persuasive presentation. Each group also creates their own press releases.

Story with Geometry

If you are a math teacher, your co-workers in the English Department will love you for using this in your classroom. Your math scholars will create a story on PowerPoint to present to the class that incorporates real-world math applications as part of the story. There is already a sample story included. This is a smart (and fun) way to incorporate math with artistic creativity and technology.

Playing with Science

For your tactile/kinesthetic learners, this will help strengthen their understanding of scientific concepts while allowing movement, hands-on experiences and many creative opportunities with the lesson's extension activities. Your class will begin by reading and discussing a New York Times article about how science helped create a multi-million dollar toy industry. With a close look at toys and the science used to make them work, groups will prepare a creative "Science of Toys" museum display.

Reference:

Pink, Daniel H. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers Will Rule the Future. New York: Riverhead, 2006. Print.