Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Art of Science

Leonardo da Vinci once wrote, “Study the science of art and the art of science.” As an artist, observer, scientist, and inventor, da Vinci showed us the importance of having a well-rounded set of skills and knowledge. Many of us aspire to create this kind of thinker in all of our students. 93% of Americans agree the arts are vital to providing a well-rounded education, according to a 2005 Harris Poll commissioned by Americans for the Arts. Meryl Streep asserts that “Young people who learn the arts do better in every phase of their lives.” Despite this, funding for art education is one of the first things many districts decide to cut when budgets are tight.

The National Gallery of Art provides online resources that students and teachers can use to incorporate art into classes in all different subject areas. The three resources Joann highlighted this week include abstract art, Dutch art and artists, and digital photography. If you browse through the NGA site, you might find some activities that will challenge the right side of your students’ brains. The digital photography resource, in particular, can be very useful to classes who are keeping a blog.

As of today, The Gateway has over 4000 resources related to the arts. When I narrowed my search with the keyword “art,” I came up with a list of 240. Many of these activities would be great for an art teacher in a school that still has funding to support this valuable education. For those of us who are not art teachers, there are some useful art-related tools as well. One collection that strives to incorporate the arts into many subject areas is ArtsEdge from The Kennedy Center. You can access this free collection on The Gateway with this link:

The ArtsEdge compilation of resources allows you to type in a secondary subject to find lesson plans that combine art and your particular subject. This is similar to clicking on a secondary subject facet in a Gateway search. I thought math might be a hard subject to relate to the arts, so I typed in Math for my secondary subject. I came up with a list of 20 lessons that ranged from K-12 in the subjects of visual art and math. I was intrigued to see lessons about drawing with geometric shapes and patterns, architecture, measuring, and even using math to study one of Aesop’s fables.

I looked further into one lesson, “Mandalas and Polygons.” Mandalas are symmetrically-designed polygons and are a form of art in many cultures. This resource reminded me of my 7th grade math teacher, who was famous in our school for doing handstands and cartwheels in front of the class to keep us interested. (I haven’t personally tried this technique, but I remember loving it as a student!) At the beginning of our geometry unit, we made string art projects, or mandalas, to display in our room all year. This project was useful for illustrating how curves can be formed from straight lines. Students in the class really got into the project and the mandalas added a lot of color to our room throughout the year.

Have you done any art in your classes this year? Do you incorporate art history in any of your lessons? Browse The Gateway to see if there are art activities that can improve some lessons you are already planning to do. I’ll close with the wisdom of John F. Kennedy, "Above all, we are coming to understand that the arts incarnate the creativity of a free people."

~Peggy's Corner~

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