Saturday, January 2, 2010

Vase of Irises

In her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards reminds us that "research revealed the dual nature of human thinking - verbal, analytic thinking mainly located in the left hemisphere, and visual, perceptual thinking mainly located in the right hemisphere."  This is based on the ground-breaking discovery by Nobel prize winner, Dr. Roger W. Sperry.  In general, traditional schools tend to favour left-brain thinking while downplaying right-brain thinking.  Left-brain scholastic subjects focus on logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy.  Right-brained subjects, on the other hand, focus on aesthetics, feeling, and creativity.  In order to be more "whole-brained" in their orientation, schools need to give equal weight to the arts, creativity, and the skills of imagination and synthesis.  In a Montessori classroom, right-brain learning activities are integrated into each of the classroom areas by incorporating pattern work, dimensional work, role playing, visual and auditory learning, and movement into all the activities.

The creative arts are forms of self-expression which should complement and enhance a child's ongoing explorations.  The materials for art and music should be integrated into the environment as part of the day-to-day activities of the children.  "We do not teach a child to draw by having him draw, but by giving him the opportunity to prepare his means of expression." (Discover of the Child).  The opportunity to explore with various media, such as crayons, chalk, pencils, pastels,  paint, clay, textiles, and a variety of papers, should always be available to the children.  One day, I placed a print of Van Gogh's Vase of Irises within sight of the painting easel.  Then I placed pots of blue, yellow and green paint in the paint tray.  I did not say anything nor did I point out the print to any of the children.  Within the week, one little girl was painting blue flowers in a vase.  Her attention to detail was limited only by the materials she'd been given to work with - that is, tempera paint and a single paint brush.

Children do not need to be taught to be creative, but in order to aid development of their creative abilities, we must provide them with opportunities that allow exploration and experimentation in all the arts.

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