As an art teacher I frequently find myself justifying the benefits of artmaking for kids. There is a fair bit of research on how kids engaged in artistic practice show improvement in academic areas such as maths (some research has shown it does while other results proved not…the perils of research) But is that really a good reason to encourage creativity in children? Are we undervaluing the arts by placing importance on how it supports other areas of learning? What about art for arts sake?
Kids like to create, imagine and explore. It’s their natural way of learning. New materials, processes, experiences all embraced with enthusiasm and wonder. I am constantly amazed (even after ten years of teaching) how they intuitively know what to do when I introduce new materials and projects with just a brief explanation from myself – more of often than not I feel they could happily dispense with me altogether!
Last term I set out an assemblage challenge. Each student a limited number of loose parts to construct a sculpture. They could also barter and exchange parts. Out of forty students age 5-10 not one child had any problem grasping the concept or utilising the materials. They just ‘got it’. The excitement was remarkable and the execution both joyously effortless and sophisticated. Rich language was exchanged throughout as ideas flew about the room. The energy and engagement palpable. The pride and accomplishment in the finished piece simply wonderful. Are they exploring addition, subtraction, formulas, balance and symmetry? Yes!
As I observe this am I thinking ‘excellent this is really going to improve their maths’?
I really don’t care if making art makes you better at maths.
I’m not sure it’s even relevant.