Today my family visited the second annual Art Prize, a huge art competition displayed all over Grand Rapids. The art is displayed both inside and outside of buildings all around downtown and anyone who registers can vote for their favorite pieces, American Idol style. There were many incredibly creative pieces and it was a lot of fun to explore and find them. Some of my kids’ favorites were the interactive ones that they could touch such as this sweet harp that “plays” based on sonar detection of sound waves or one of the many pianos randomly placed around the city.
We started the day parked in front of the Waters Building, a historic spot downtown. We arrived before the “official” start of Art Prize and wandered off to look at some of the outdoor exhibits. At the end of our day when we returned to our van there was a sign indicating that there were art entries inside. We went in and looked at the exhibits. Many were in small rooms off from a main hallway. We found this exhibit of hundreds of ceramic pieces that look like shells on a wood floor.
My son immediately joined some other kids who were playing with the “rocks.”
My daughter made her name with them, but my son started sorting out by color into ones that he liked the best.
I couldn’t help but think about learning. I didn’t have to tell my kids, “Go play with this art.” I did not have to give them any instructions. They automatically started doing learning on their own. It is human nature to perform math-sort and organize- and to be creative and spell.
What if we used kids curiosity more in schools? I have been practicing spelling words with my son for two weeks. He does not like it and I think I hate it even more. What if I gave him a bunch of objects and had him “spell” his words? Would he “learn” them faster and better?
What if social studies showed a students a tool like How Big Really? and let students explore landmarks? Would students learn geography better? Would it lead to questions such as why was the Great Wall of China built?
What if history class started with today and went backwards? What if class started with current events and then would students ask how things got they way they are today?
I love the science class that I have with my son whether it is building a raft , walking in the woods, or picking vegetables from our garden. Science teachers who throw away the scripted labs “get” what learning looks like.
What if we skyped with students from other countries and then we taught students how to write letters? What if we studied the world’s problems and used that knowledge for social action?
What if math “happened” when students needed it to solve one of the many questions these explorations would lead to?
What if Language Arts was sharing all of these amazing experiences with the world through writing, blogging, videos, and podcasts?
We don’t need to teach students to be creative artists. We need to get out of the way and let them be artists!