Why is it that Nobel prize winning scientists are 2.85 times more likely than the average scientist to have an artistic or crafty hobby? Why does the Royal College of Surgeons offer drawing courses for trainee surgeons?
The arts are education’s secret weapon – a transferable turbo boost that fires across the whole curriculum. A well-planned visit to a cultural venue that allows children to question what they see, and respond with their own making, is a powerful way to build learning power.
Learning about art helps us understand the world we live in. Making art is a global, human phenomenon. A gallery or museum visit offers a glimpse into the richness and abundance of art being made. It is an education in diversity and difference – a gift for exploring social, moral, spiritual and cultural values.
As makers, children employ fine motor skills, spatial awareness, body skills, listening, visual literacy, concept modelling, problem solving, flexible thinking, inquiry, resilience, patience, independence, motivation… the list is seemingly endless. These skills feed all learning activity.
Making and talking about the arts are compelling experiences where ‘core’ subject skills can be applied. Designers, musicians and technicians are highly numerate. Artists, writers and digital coders channel the curiosity of the scientist. And at the heart of the arts lies the drive to communicate – to engage, to delight, to connect.
For many children learning only comes alive when they are able to make connections across the curriculum.
By Key Stage 2 they are already veterans in the art of acquiring and storing knowledge. We can use Children’s Art Week to expand and take learning to a higher level. Why not use artworks to provoke debate and focus research about historical events? Or offer them as clues for research about the local area? Open up a scientific enquiry about materials used to make artworks. Use the museum or gallery and its contents as a workshop for Shape, Space and Measure activities. Just the experience of leaving familiar places and encountering the unknown is in itself a rich starting point for all forms of writing.
There are so many good reasons to use the unique power of art. The curriculum comes to life and children are inspired. Perhaps most refreshing of all, is the chance to ‘take a walk around’ ideas and practice the divergent thinking needed to navigate our world.
In these times of rapid change, has this ever been more important?
Arts Education Specialist
Children’s Art Week is run by Engage, the National Association for Gallery Education, and supported in 2019 by the Arts Society and The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust.