“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – This dictum about the value of practical experience in education is popularly attributed to the great Chinese philosopher Confucius. It is as true today as it was in ancient China. All over the world, the system of rote learning is giving way to practical and activity-based learning. Arts and crafts are being used as teaching tools in classrooms not only because they bring out multiple talents in the children but also because they make learning a fun-filled and exciting process.
Teachers find that when they use art to teach various core subjects, the process gets a lot easier and more effective. Students become more interested in what is being taught. The teacher becomes a facilitator for learning. And the gap between the teacher and the students lessens.
Based on first-hand experience, here’s a quick look at the ways in which this new approach to teaching has produced amazing results in diverse subjects:
English/Enter the dragon: An English lesson in the Std IV textbook was based on a Chinese folk tale. As a related activity, children were taught how to make Chinese lanterns. Images of a Chinese dragon were displayed on the classroom screen and children showed interest in drawing and colouring pictures of this fascinating beast. The art work they produced was glued to the lanterns to make them more attractive. The learning experience that the children had through all this was awesome!
History/Storming the bastion: Students of Std III had a history lesson on the famous war between the Greeks and the Trojans, in which the Trojans tricked the Greek by hiding their soldiers in an enormous wooden horse which the Greeks allowed into their territory. The students were shown pictures of the Trojan horse and the warriors, and were encouraged to draw them. Their drawings were then made into little cut-outs and used to decorate the classroom walls. The enthusiasm of the children, and the way this activity boosted their power to absorb ideas and the will to execute them were absolutely amazing!
Geography and Biology/Amazing Amazon: Exotic animals of the Amazon jungles were the focus of one of the lessons in a Std III textbook. The children were asked to collect pictures of these animals from the library. They came back with scores of images. They were then taught how to make utility items like pen stands and gloves featuring the red-eyed frog, one of the animals they were learning about. This activity served as a great opening for them to learn about the amphibian in detail.
Mathematics/Shaping up well: Drawing cubes was part of the curriculum in Std II mathematics classes. The children found that their earlier art classes, where they had learnt to draw three-dimensional figures using cubes and cuboids, came in really handy in their math project.
Environmental Science/The roar of the jungle: Making tiger facemasks was one of the activities that Std II students enjoyed during art class. And, when they learnt about the protection of tigers in their EVS class, they were able to relate very well to it. They were also taught about conservation of forests. They made charts and posters on conserving nature, and this activity too proved to be very helpful in their assimilation of knowledge about the environment.
Languages/Paper art: When the students from Stds I and II were learning about Ullu (Owl) in Hindi, they were encouraged to make Origami owls. Some of them drew pictures of owls too. Their work was put up on the classroom walls, and this boosted their interest in learning the language.
For higher classes/Artistic license: Art can be used as a tool for learning for students in higher classes too. When children in Stds V and VI were learning about symmetry in mathematics, they found the concept easy to understand, as they related it to the symmetrical drawing they learnt in art class. Some students also participated in a poster design competition conducted by the Ministry of Water Resources after learning about water conservation and rain water harvesting in their Environmental Science class.
These are only some examples of how art can be used to enhance the learning ability of children. They demonstrate how art can be interlinked with theory in disparate fields of knowledge to make learning both meaningful and enjoyable. The success experienced by institutions which have used activities to enhance the learning experience should be a catalyst for all schools to take it up.
KalyaniVoletti is an art instructor at Sun City School, Gurgaon, and is also a visual arts curriculum designer.