The Arts and Children: What Are We Teaching?

In preparing for the next phase of my trip, I came across the statement below which beautifully states the important things that we learn through the arts.  I thought it was quite appropriate, since my main focus this week is on working with the kids in the schools.

Yesterday and today I spent my afternoons working with students ranging in age from 5 to 13, playing theatre games and beginning to act out the stories that have been shared by their peers.  Essentially, EPIC is creating a play with the kids in Jonesborough to mirror the community play: they have gathered stories through story circles and writing exercises, and are now putting it into live action.  The primary difference here is that the community play had an official script based off of the stories told, whereas the school-based play is being created through improvisation.  We read through the stories as a group, pick the ones that really speak to us, and the kids start to create performances out of them.

I’ll write more about this process tomorrow, but for now, enjoy this excerpt about the importance of art:

Ten Lessons the Arts Teach

1. The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships. Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

2. The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.

3. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives. One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

5. The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

6. The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects. The arts traffic in subtleties.

7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material. All art forms employ some means through which images become real.

8. The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

9. The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

10. The arts’ position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.

SOURCE: Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press. Available from NAEA Publications. NAEA grants reprint permission for this excerpt from Ten Lessons with proper acknowledgment of its source and NAEA.

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One thought on “The Arts and Children: What Are We Teaching?

  1. Hey Folks – Sorry but I seem to be having some technical difficulties with the sound on the video…. check back later for the fixed version!

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