The ‘arts’ of learning

Usha Pandit

A child is a natural learner, thinker, and explorer. Our job in schools is to provide opportunities to nurture the child’s natural curiosity and materials to enhance learning.

At the pre-school and early school level children are often pre-verbal, without adequate language to express themselves efficiently. From art, children gain in creativity, psychomotor and fine motor skills, manipulative dexterity, perceptual skills and joy of finding and expressing the world around them. Integrated learning helps in building linguistic skills, encourages literary appreciation, life application in math, cultural studies, and understanding of design and technology from a very early stage. Therefore, we should begin to embrace art not as a stand-alone subject but as a way of life.

Integrating art and literature
Stories from around the world lend themselves to the creation of objects like a Japanese fan, a monkey mask, Mexican totems, or a Chinese kite. Furthermore, a design component will allow children to become problem solvers by creating a new kind of kite or fan. Folk tales are a wonderful medium for putting together literature, social studies, and art in appreciation of the linguistic and artistic traditions of a region.

Children can be invited to think of colours, shapes, or textures for a fairy story or a folk tale. Crafts like paper weaving, salt dough pottery, papier mache creations of large installations can aid imagination and build class esteem. In New Zealand, we once made an eight-foot papier-mache dragon with the children and installed it on the ceiling. Another time, a class wall-collage of the sea had children collaboratively producing a host of sea creatures including a three dimensional paper spun octopus.

The author is teacher, educational consultant, teacher trainer, champion of gifted education, and the author of the textbook series Empowering English and of Writing with Ease. She is the Founder CEO of Mindsprings, an organization that was set up to contribute positively to education and to meet the needs of bright and exceptionally intelligent children. Read more about the work Mindsprings does at

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