Both my kids have always had a strong sense of art, of being able to create visually appealing pieces. (The Rowdie effort to the left by the oldest is not one of his best efforts, though it does accurately convey the family pet’s personality.) We constantly had crayons, painting supplies, easels, and all sorts of other artsy things in use around the house.
I wasn’t much help. My art skills have been described as “creative” and “abstract.”
Both kids continue to share their love for the medium and to help me think about art and artists. And today, a quick conversation with a high school US history teacher meandered down a path that focused on ways to integrate art into our instruction.
So it got me thinking a bit.
We often forget how powerful the arts can be in connecting our kids with social studies content and big ideas. Art, in all of its forms, is a great way to create emotion, generate connections, and build relationships. Whether viewing landscapes, portraits, or historical events through the eyes of contemporary artists, students can get a sense of time, of place, of interpretation that would be impossible using other forms of primary sources.
One of the quickest ways to incorporate the arts is to focus on the visual – paintings, drawings, and images. But I often notice it missing from the toolkits of many social studies teachers. And I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe we’re just not aware of the resources available or the kinds of questions to ask. If we’ve never thought too much about using artwork as an instructional tools, it can be hard finding a jumping off point.
So what can it look like when we intentionally integrate visual art into our classrooms? Try some of these ideas and resources: Read more