There is a new (to me) philosophy for teaching art to elementary students that involves focusing on self-expression rather than technique. Students are encouraged to pick their own topic to explore, then taught how to use tools and technique to create that art. Instead of being about projects, class is about artistic expression.
When I heard about this concept, I immediately thought of the story about the red flower that was memorialized in an old Harry Chapin song and which is in story form here. In short, a teacher gives explicit instructions so many times that students become reliant upon them and are unable to create on their own, even when given permission to do so.
I think the red flower story has relevance to today’s structured activities for kids – because they grow up always having something on the calendar it becomes difficult for them to create their own fun, even when time permits. And after completing 12+ years of structured schooling, new employees are often challenged in taking initiative at work, instead wait for their supervisor to tell them what to do.
I applaud all efforts that help people – of all ages – truly think about things instead of memorizing them, and bravo to teaching that helps people learn how to conceptualize and understand the rationale of the fundamentals behind what they are studying.
Here’s to creating a gallery of snakes and snowmen and elephants and mice!