Does teaching children about art help them become better students overall?

CultureChild: Learning Through Art

 

A study by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum says it does.

Still curious about this connection from my conversation with Megan Lucas, I dug up an article that ran in The New York Times  following the release of the 2006 Solomon R. Guggenheim Learning Through Art study.  According to the article, the study found that students who participated in the Learning Through Art program performed better in six categories of literacy and critical thinking skills—including thorough description, hypothesizing and reasoning—than students who were not in the program.

Without wishing to oversimplify the issue, I can share from my own experience how one child I know increased his aptitude for learning through the use of art.  As a Learning Leaders volunteer, I tutor kids in reading at an under served public school.  Last year, through a trial-and-error process, I discovered a link between drawing and reading with this particular first-grade student.

It was clear that he had attention issues, but I was never briefed on his background.  He had difficulty sitting still for more than five minutes, and often walked out of our sessions. I knew that he loved to draw, and in an effort to keep him from abruptly ending our 40-minute sessions, I equipped him with a drawing pad and an array of newly sharpened colored pencils each week.  I quickly figured out that if I let him draw the characters and themes in a story that I read to him or let him draw pictures of some of the words that he read on flashcards, he stayed engaged for the 40 minutes.  He also took pride in talking about his pictures and using them to illustrate the stories that we read together and to create his own stories.  Through this exchange, we gradually spent more time reading and writing than drawing.

I’m taking a break from tutoring this semester; however, I plan to return to it in the fall, armed with some new ideas in my toolkit that I’m gleaning from this blog.  Art supplies will be essential in that toolkit.

Interview with Megan Lucas, Freelance Museum Educator

CultureChild: Teaching Children About Art

Sunday, I chatted with Megan Lucas, a freelance educator for the Family Programs at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), during a visit with my daughter to the museum’s Material Lab.  Here are a few excerpts from our conversation.

CultureChild:  Why is it important to teach children about art?

Megan:  Teaching children about art helps them realize things about themselves, their surroundings and others. I find that children develop their own lenses by observing how artists use theirs. By observing the artwork of others, children can reflect on themselves and their surroundings. Through our Family Programs, family members can come to these realizations collectively.

In MoMA’s Family Art Workshop for Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914, we help children understand Picasso’s lens by asking them to think about an everyday object that has personal significance and what the object represents to them.   To Picasso, the guitars in his work symbolize Spain and his love of music.

CultureChild: Do you know of any research that connects children learning about art to their personal development?

Megan:  The Guggenheim Museum’s Learning Through Art program (LTA) conducted and published research linking art education to the development of literacy and critical thinking skills.  The Guggenheim Museum recently published another study about how observation and art-making enhance problem-solving skills.

CultureChild: In addition to the MoMA’s Family Art Workshops, how can parents help children engage with art?

Megan: 

Parents and children can visit museum galleries without taking tours. When parents ask open-ended questions and encourage reflection and close analysis of art works, family members of all ages can hone their critical thinking skills while thinking and looking at art, side by side as a family.

In addition, all of the objects in the Material Lab are designed to teach children about the works in the museum’s collection, to encourage them to interact with art and to inspire creativity.

About Megan: Megan Lucas currently works as a freelance museum educator teaching school programs at the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, as well as family programs at MoMA.  She recently received her Master in Education in art education with a focus in museum education from Teachers College at Columbia University. Megan also holds a Master of Arts in art education from Teachers College, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in fine arts from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio.  In addition to teaching, she also enjoys drawing, painting and printmaking.