Are You An Artist? A Mathematician? A Scientist? An Athlete? Imagine If The Answer Was Always “Yes!”

This year, our students have really embraced The Arts. Many of them, particularly love visual arts, especially painting. Earlier in the year, we introduced them to Van Gogh, and his artwork really inspired them. He was the reason that these kindergartners are discussing technique, and not just creating paintings, but exploring the stories behind them. From Van Gogh, we moved on to introducing Kandinsky and Picasso, and it was through their artwork, that students started to look more closely at lines and shapes in art. We also started talking about “abstract art,” and our children noticed it everywhere … even in their clothing choices.

It was only in replaying this video that I heard her mention “fireworks” before I did.

We’ve also decided to not just discuss The Arts using more traditional media, such as paint, clay, and pastels, but also explore The Arts through nature. We looked at Andy Goldsworthy’s land art, and some students were inspired to create and discuss their own.

We also started to look at artistic choices in building designs, which spread to exploring art through block structures and marble run creations as well as Lego.

By looking at art in many different ways, students started to realize that they are all artists and can all use visual arts in some way to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

We decided to link this art interest to some home learning, and our current VIP project is all about The Arts. The students have shared and discussed some incredible work, looking closely at artists from Van Gogh to Banksy. The presentations are also increasing vocabulary and interest around art. They’re leading to activities and projects such as these.

Picasso inspired this today. #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #ctinquiry #art

A photo posted by Aviva (@avivaloca) on

They are also allowing us to make links to other learning that is happening in the classroom, and how this learning is also another take on visual arts. This was especially true when students started to create a Purse Shop on Thursday.

Our sewing expert was away on Friday, but we expect to extend this visual arts link more on Monday when she’s back in class and teaching others how to sew their purses.

It is as I look back at all of these different artistic choices that I start to understand what role growth mindset/grit might play in the classroom. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of either one of these terms. I absolutely believe in working hard and persevering, even when a task is difficult. That said, I’m afraid that this belief that “with hard work, we will always succeed,” could lead to unrealistic expectations and even stronger feelings of failure if/when we don’t. One of my favourite posts on grit and growth mindset is this one by Andrew Kelly. I look back at it frequently and nod along with the points that are so rarely discussed in other posts. 

It is actually with this post in mind that I think about our class’ evolving interest in visual arts. If we only explored painting and drawing, would all students feel as successful as they do now? If we want students to keep working at something, even if it’s challenging, do we also need to provide these multiple entry points that allow for “success” in some form? I think about my own experiences with The Arts. As someone who has a familial tremor (meaning that my hands always shake to some degree) and a non-verbal learning disability (with significant delays in visual-spatial skills), I have always struggled to some degree in visual arts. This is often why I am so vocal against crafts that result in a similar final product for all, as my final product never looked like the sample one. Despite my own struggles with visual arts, I love using The Arts with students as a way for them to communicate. For some students this is incredibly powerful! But for me, I still have that little fear of will I ever truly be an artist? Then, late on Thursday night, I saw this VIP presentation information from one of our students about Phil Hansen. He “embraced the shake” and has become an incredible artist. I share this here because Phil inspired me. He showed me that we can all be artists, but sometimes, we just have to change our mindset … and maybe our perspective.

Looking at our class now, I’m so glad that we didn’t make visual arts only about traditional media. I’m glad that we have a class of students that truly believe that they’re “artists,” and have found various ways to show this artistic thinking and communicate using the media of their choice. The many artistic experiences this year makes me wonder how I would change my art approach in other grades. While I’m talking about visual arts here, I could be talking about so much more: from math to science to language to phys-ed to all of the other arts. How do we widen our perspective in all subject areas, and what might this mean for student success? It was only in recent years, after discussions with our Arts Consultant, Karen, that I began to view myself as an artist. I don’t want students to have to wait this long. What do we do to stop feelings of inadequacy in adults and in children? We all deserve to feel better about ourselves.


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