The glitter. The finger paint. The permanent marker across the wall. The playdough squished into the carpet. Kids love creating, and art gives them that perfect outlet.
Even though we might grimace when the permanent marker comes out, as parents, we encourage our children to do what they love, and we treasure those moments where their little faces light up when presenting us with another Picasso creation. So it’s reassuring to know that the benefits of visual arts in education are plentiful.
Head of Art at John Colet School, Annette Gadsby, says Art is a core part of learning at the school and has been bolstered by the completion of the brand new Judith Donald Art Centre.
“The basis of Art Education at John Colet is Observational Drawing, where children are encouraged to observe, connect and understand objects in their environment,” Mrs Gadsby says.
“By watching a child draw you can learn so much about their approach to learning and to life. By teaching them how to see and to draw, we can increase their self-confidence, their decision-making abilities, and their patience and perseverance.”
Art improves our brain function
Because art draws on all the senses, children’s brain synapses ignite as they create, mix, colour, squish and imagine. There is increasing scientific evidence that proves art can actually raise serotonin levels, which positively impacts how our children view and experience the world.
“At John Colet School, we consistently see the impact visual arts have on our student’s academic performance. Students engaged in art education often have reduced stress, improved memory function and increased confidence – all key indicators for academic success,” Mrs Gadsby says.
“All the bodily systems that art nourishes, sensory, cognitive, emotional, motor capacities… they are the driving forces behind all other learning.”
Art helps us learn in all areas of life
Just like reading helps increase our vocabulary, and measuring helps us understand space and volume, looking at images and art increases our visual literacy and understanding of the world.
So that finger painting Picasso and permanent marker scribble is actually your child’s first foray into decision-making and problem-solving.
“Visual Art draws on elements from all disciplines. Students use maths to demonstrate proportion and size in their art; English to tell their story and imagine how to visually portray their thoughts; History to recognise certain periods of art and culture, giving us a glimpse into the mindset of that time,” Mrs Gadsby says.
In addition to problem-solving skills, John Colet School Art Teacher Kate Nielsen says art also promotes fine motor skill development, memory and self-control.
“From that first moment a toddler grips a crayon and scribbles a wobbly line, they are in fact taking their first steps in writing, and learning how much pressure to exert to hold that crayon and control that shape – and they get to see a colourful result! It’s no wonder children develop a love for art at an early age,” Ms Nielsen says.
Art helps you understand and ground yourself
At John Colet, we display roughly 20 reproductions from mediaeval art to contemporary, and we ask the child to choose one. The very young are asked: “What can you see”? and “Why did you choose that picture”? They always take a long time to choose, often carefully examining each artwork before they make their choice.
What’s the point of this exercise? What each student chooses, tells us something about them.
“Art creates a deep connection with oneself. It is deeply spiritual because it’s about what is within. At some levels it may be about the mind and thought, or the heart and feelings, or an expression of the essence of the child itself,” Mrs Gadsby says.
“Our job is to nurture, encourage, and equip each student with the tools to express themselves through visual art.
“There’s no right or wrong answer. There might be a few rules, but ultimately the final product is in their hands. Students thrive when they master self-expression, where they can safely learn how to communicate their thoughts and feelings through art.”
Respect and reflection are two core pillars at John Colet School. Through art, we learn to respect others’ work and never comment negatively on our own work, or the work of others. We never scribble on, or throw away our work or the work of others. If we don’t feel happy with what we’ve done, we just try something else. There are no mistakes.
“Whether a student is creating a new colour, or adjusting a shape to be more harmonious – whatever considerations are going on in the mind, is reflected on the page. Their mind is being stretched and opened in different ways.”
Art helps you connect to others and your world
We know our children absorb information like sponges (sometimes right at the most inconvenient times!) Art gives them an outlet to process what they absorb, reflect, and create their version of understanding.
“At John Colet, we use Visual Art to help us learn about different cultures. Children come to understand the differences and similarities of artistic expression between cultures, promoting a sense of acceptance and recognition that there are many different ways of thinking,” Mrs Gadsby says.
Art can even be used to bridge social islands, connecting children who don’t know each other, and instantly breaking down barriers that we, as adults, find difficult to overcome.
“When children start creating their own art, they naturally become curious and excited about other students’ art — especially if they recognise the style, medium, or subject. The creative process helps establish a lasting affinity for visual arts and culture in children, that’s vital to connecting to new people,” Mrs Gadsby says.
Help your child paint a bright future at John Colet School by joining us on our Open Day, on Sunday 28th May, from 10am – 2pm. Visit www.johncolet.nsw.edu.au for more information, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org