You’ve probably heard of STEM in education, but what about STEAM?
STEM refers to the study of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. But these days, there’s an extra A in the mix. The acronym STEAM adds Art to STEM. Why? Because learning through the arts is so important! 🎨
Art education helps students develop strong academic skills. Artists' brains are actually different from other brains! That’s how influential art can be. And engaging in creative activities helps students process emotion better.
So how can your student learn through art? And what can you do at home to encourage art-based learning? 🏠
It all starts with being playful.
Art is a form of play
Play looks different for everyone, but everyone plays! Yes, even big kids and adults. From participating in a sport to completing a puzzle, there are a million ways for students to learn through play.
According to experts like Stuart Brown, play is a pleasurable, self-directed activity that holds your attention. Play is pro-social, meaning it allows students to engage in developing important social-emotional skills and helps build confidence. 💪
Brown identified many types of play personalities. Do you recognize any of them in your child?
The joker 🤣 loves to make people laugh.
The kinesthete 🏃 is always on the move.
The explorer 🌎 loves to discover new things.
The competitor 🎲 is in it to win it.
The director 🎉 enjoys planning and hosting events.
The collector 🐚 is always looking for a new piece for their collection.
The storyteller ✍🏼 engages with and creates stories.
The artist/creator 🎨 makes and appreciates art of all forms.
While art is its own type of play, it really can be involved in many of the play personalities. Art is a wide form of play that is accessible to everyone because there are so many different ways to participate:
📷 Visual and graphic arts
🎭 Performing arts
🗿 Decorative arts
Engaging in the arts should be fun! So think about what your child likes to do and start there. What kind of play personality does your child have? What kind of art do they already enjoy?
But don’t be afraid to expose them to new experiences and types of art. 🎨 You never know what new thing they might love!
Just don’t let it become another adult-focused activity - let your child choose what to spend time on. Art is not only valuable on its own, it also helps your child perform better in school. 👩🎓
How can art help students learn?
School these days can be overwhelming. 🥴
Teachers, parents, and administrators expect so much from students! The huge focus on testing means that many arts programs are not as robust as they used to be. That’s a shame, because a balanced education requires more than “testable” material.
Students need exposure to art in order to develop their growing brains and nurture their creative sides.
Why are the arts important in education?
Art is wonderful! It can help students in a few ways:
1️⃣ Art provides a much needed break and a way for students to unwind. Art is relaxing and promotes emotional well-being. And happier students do better in school.
2️⃣ Learning an arts-related activity (like playing an instrument or painting) teaches students valuable skills that translate to better academic performance.
3️⃣ Art activities engage the brain in different ways than traditional academic activities do. This means that students are developing and growing their brains as they participate in art!
4️⃣ Art can enhance learning in academic subjects. We want students to really understand what they are learning, not just memorize the surface level information.
One way to deepen understanding is to engage more of the senses in the learning process. How can your child add art to their academics? They probably already do in some ways!
- Make a poster to explain a concept
- Create a diorama to display a historical event
- Write a letter from the perspective of a character in a novel
If your student is struggling, encourage them to find a new way to approach the subject! Can they sketch the scene they are reading to make sure they understand the plot? Can they knit while listening to the teacher’s lecture to help keep themselves focused? 🧶
What skills do you learn from art?
By participating in various arts-based activities, students develop skills that serve them well in the classroom and beyond. It’s not just that art is fun, though that certainly doesn’t hurt!
As a teacher, I look for these skills in my students and I know that art can help develop them:
🗣️ Communication. Art can help students learn to express themselves more effectively and clearly. They can also express their feelings better when they are able to manage their emotions. Spending time doing art helps grow these skills.
🤝 Collaboration. Sure, some arts are more individualistic, but many require working as part of a group - think playing in the band or on a sports team. Students who participate in group activities are better able to work together in the classroom.
🧠 Adaptability. Things change all the time. Students need to be able to adjust course when something unexpected happens. Art allows students to practice that skill in a low risk environment...if they run out of red paint, maybe they can use another color instead, for example, without feeling like it’s the end of the world.
🧘 Flexible thinking. Many parts of art are not just straightforward, with one correct way of doing it. There is a lot of room for interpretation, which means students need to be able to think flexibly.
🧩 Problem solving. Our brains need a lot of practice solving problems in different ways! When students engage in arts-based activities, they solve problems - sometimes without even realizing it!
Engage your child in art at home!
When students have time for art at home, they are able to spend more time focusing on their activity than they can at school. Not to mention, many arts programs were paused this year because of the pandemic. 😷
So give them lots of opportunities to have unstructured time for art at home! Your child may enjoy playing an instrument or dancing, or perhaps they want to learn a new way to create some visual art. 🖼️
The great thing about art is that there’s no wrong way to do it. Whether you choose to guide your child in a structured activity or let them freestyle it, you can’t go wrong. 👍🏽
🚫 Don’t be afraid to get messy! Cleaning up is part of the learning, so put your child in charge of cleaning up if they completed a messy project.
In Montessori, we focus on teaching a specific skill and then letting them run with it. So I might teach how to do a certain paint stroke, or we might watch a video about how to draw realistic eyes. Then, students are free to try it throughout the week.
You can take a similar approach at home. Find out what your child is interested in learning (check out some suggestions below!) and together you can take on a new challenge! 💃
Art at home
Nature art 🌲
Get outside and see what art you can find!
- Collect leaves for leaf rubbing
- Gather sticks and see what you can create - maybe use one to build a mobile or see if you can construct a shelter
- Sit and observe at a park - write a poem or draw what you see
- Find math in nature - patterns, shapes, the Fibonacci sequence
- Take photographs of interesting details you notice
Try a new skill 🆕
Search for videos online, or buy a book or kit that is focused on the skill your student wants to practice. The list is nearly endless, but here are some ideas to get you started.
- Paper making
- Story or graphic novel writing
After the art activity, get back to academics with GoStudent!
A balanced education needs plenty of time for art and play, as well as plenty of time for focused academics. 📚
If your student needs a little extra academic support, a GoStudent tutor can help. Our tutors know how to engage students in a playful way, and can help with academics so you have more time to play! Try a free trial lesson to see how it can work for you. 🚀