When I first began to investigate why making Art held important information about all learning, I could only begin to predict what I might discover. For a year I have observed at all levels, in public and independent schools, from early childhood through high school, and in museum classes and college settings. I filled my notebooks with teachers’ and children’s own words. Their language, I expected, would give me evidence that Art making: 1.Inspires inventive thinking, 2.Invites tinkering with ideas and building vital connections, 3.Involves navigating through failure, and 4. Instills craftsmanship and high standards.
1.Teachers who are simultaneously playful and serious about learning electrify and empower their students. 2.Time is essential; if we expect children to imagine and transform materials into something novel and of high quality, we must give them time. 3.The most powerful learning occurs within a meaningful, connected context. 4.Collaboration deepens and enriches every experience, be it among students, teachers, or a mix of the two. 5.Reflection (journaling) and peer feedback (critique) deepen one’s understanding during every learning process.
Last week I came across a piece written by English teacher, Sophia Faridi, who’d traveled to Helsinki to see what made Finnish schools tick.
I was struck by what she had to say.* The attributes for which the Finnish public schools are known are the same observable characteristics present when we teach thinking through Art. Take a listen to what she had to report.
1.Finns value play because they believe that kids learn from exploration. 2. Students have adequate time (15 minutes for every 45 minutes of teaching) to indulge in what interests them. 3.Schools emphasize real learning and inquiry, and teachers don’t forfeit time for standardized test prep. 4.Until fourth grade, teachers base student assessments on how students learn, and do not give grades until later. 5.National standards exist (like our Common Core), yet teachers have the autonomy to impart them as they see fit. 6.Finns place a high value on collaborative learning, both among teachers and students. They design spaces to stimulate shared interaction.
Nancy Harris Frohlich
*In her article from Education Week and the Faridi also reveals that: 1.Finnish teachers go through rigorous research-based training programs and come to teaching with post-graduate degrees. The system recognizes that if teachers are overworked they will not be happy or effective. They have planning time at home and reasonable work loads. 2.Society puts its faith and trust in its teachers, and in turn, teachers trust their students. 3.Neither Finnish teachers nor schools are evaluated nor compete with one another.