While universally, art education for children has been hailed as an important and essential activity, and its integration with other learning subjects at the primary levels has been accepted, surprisingly, the child art curriculum for schools that has been formatted to the actual needs of the children by various educational organizations is neither implemented nor is it used in the teaching of the other subjects.
This has actually nothing to do with the purchase of material or the expenditure. It has to do with awareness or the lack of it. It has thus become necessary that material that substantiates the importance of art is introduced into the teaching-learning system from time to time, as art at the primary level is invariably an essential part of learning.
Jane and Roshan Sahi reinforce this idea through their recent publication Learning through Art with simple ideas, activities, illustrations and practical tips, basically creating a resource book to help primary teachers use art as a tool – a medium to involve and inspire children in learning not only aesthetics but also subjects like mathematics, the sciences, environmental sciences and other aspects of education like creativity and self-help that are generally ignored.
The mother-son duo has created a wider and larger platform to integrate art activities into the daily routine of a primary student. This goes beyond the traditional form of painting and drawing with color, pencil and chalk. There is an encouragement to explore, experiment, observe, choose, collect material from nature and the surroundings, listen and tell stories, experiences, etc. The book encourages teachers to deviate from the conventional methods of teaching limited to the blackboard, chalk, pencil and paper and rigid and repetitive exercises to creating a wider canvas of inclusion and constructivism. The importance given to the child’s senses in the book is very important. The book emphasizes that the senses are vital catalysts in gaining knowledge of the self-knowledge and the outside world.
The book systematically outlines requirements like purpose, materials and preparations, space and time, activities, need of questions, discussions, etc., for each class under different heads like senses, ways of seeing, movement and balance, awareness of time, smell, earth, water, air and space, fire, light and heat and many more. Comprehensive ideas and activities are elaborated under each topic using not only different kinds of natural and purchased material but aimed at stimulating the children to use their body and senses.
Inclusion and constructivism are primary ideas of the book, aiming at inculcating sensitivity towards nature, being receptive to minute and articulate happenings around them, prodding children to work within the limits of the material provided as well as giving scope to look to other probable resources that could be purposeful in the activity.
Several simple games that are involved to learn about color, texture, shapes, light, space, numbers, time, trees, birds, animals, etc., make interesting events ensuring enjoyment and creativity making the teaching-learning process interesting, more accommodative and looked forward to.
Drawing, painting, scribbling, tearing, pasting, clay modeling, puppet making books with flaps, origami and origami books movable puppets, popup puppets, masks, sharing experiences, group work, stitching stick puppets, butterfly patterns, rangoli designs, hat making, collages, obtaining natural colors from nature, work back rubbings, stitching, necklaces from seeds and pods, plus a number of games are only a part of the umpteen number of activities outlined in the book.
The idea of the book is holistic in helping children have an enjoyable children-centric interactive and creative learning experience through investigation, articulation, assimilation, exploration, experimentation, involvement, interaction, observation and application, which in turn would generate self-confidence and self-gratification in children instead of allowing them to be passive listeners in a closed classroom and bonded to the rote methods of teaching.
Jane and Roshan Sahi take the teaching-learning activity outside the classroom – into nature, involving children to think by themselves and make optimum use of the material freely available there. The book is all about creativity, innovation, working with hands, body and mind aiming towards excellence rather than learning without sense and interest. It is a well-researched methodically written book necessitating the teacher to understand the pre-requisites of primary children to become bold, expressive and confident individuals.
The reviewer is a practicing artist and printmaker. She teaches art at Kendriya Vidyalaya.No.1 Golconda and works with rural chidren at an NGO called Sanskriti. She can be reached at [email protected].