Incorporating Art in the Classroom

Are you running out of ideas?

In theory, teachers across Australia know that art education should be an integral part of childrens’ learning. Certainly, in Rudolf Steiner schools there is a strong expectation that childrens’ art making, and creativity will be central to their learning. If you’ve ever worked in a Steiner school or visited a Steiner school, you’ll know the classrooms and childrens’ books are filled with art in various mediums; watercolour, crayon, pencil. Colour and form swirl around the visitor like a kaleidoscope of beauty.

However, for teachers both in the Steiner system and mainstream, sustaining childrens’ daily art making has its challenges. Although teachers know they ought to extend childrens’ artistic abilities, a common issue is that beyond the infant years, inspiration and confidence in teaching art can diminish. Many believe they lack the training and skills to extend childrens’ creativity beyond year 1 or 2.

Steiner art educator, Gill William Smith says this issue is common. “Teachers know they have to do a certain amount of creative art with their classes. But it’s often the elephant in the room because beyond a certain elementary level they know nothing about it”.

For Steiner teachers, an additional complexity is navigating the theoretical underpinning of Steiner art education which is inspired by Steiner’s extensive study of the German writer, statesman, scientist and artist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Goethe wrote prolifically on art, producing at least 2000 pages of written manuscripts (as well as many other subjects). Goethe’s theories including the Theory of Colours(1810) are an important foundation. However, distilling the ‘how-to’ practical application of Goethe’s Theory of Coloursand applying it masterfully within the day-to-day of classroom management and curriculum planning can be challenging for some.

For non-Steiner teachers, there’s the difficulty of providing art materials and creative space within the structured expectations of curriculum delivery. It’s no surprise that Gill notes, “Beyond Kindergarten many teachers are struggling to find the time to learn about art materials and how they work, yet along extend artmaking into the heart of a lesson plan”.

Sydney Rudolf Steiner College offers NESA accredited art training workshops for proficient level teachers as well as to the public. Some of our workshops are run in-house in our Sydney CBD location and others can be run in schools. Gill William Smith has over 30 years teaching art in Steiner schools and has recently provided in-school training for Watercolour Painting, Form Drawing, Geometry Drawing and Blackboard Drawing. Gill’s training emphasises building the confidence of teachers to develop their own art-rich lessons. By enhancing teachers’ creative skills, she helps them develop expertise and confidence in their capacity to teach art. “I like to take teachers on a journey of fascination. Using mixed media and a variety of affordable art materials I support teachers to make aesthetically beautiful and pleasing works’.

So, do you need to be an artist to teach children art? “Definitely not!”, she says. “All a teacher needs are a treasure trove of ideas and some skill, but you don’t need to be an artist!”. With her years of teaching art to draw upon, Gill is a powerhouse of ideas which she is eager to share. Participants can expect to complete her workshops and have a wealth of easy to follow techniques, ideas and inspirations to take back into the class.

And what about Steiner teachers? Can Gill help them apply Goethean colour theory with confidence? Gill says, “I do this gently! I disentangle the esoteric and put Goethe’s ideas into simple terms. We talk about the mood colours invoke, how particular colours influence a child, and how to implement Goethe both indirectly and directly. Step by step we go.”

Shifting art making from the periphery of school experience into the centre is the focus of Sydney Rudolf Steiner College’s art training workshops. Supporting teachers to undertake a ‘…journey of fascination’ with art making and building their confidence and skills to take the journey back into the everyday is our goal. With our experienced art teachers, we can devise a bespoke in-house art workshop catering to your school’s needs or deliver NESA accredited professional development art courses in our Sydney premise or off-site. Please contact us to discuss your needs, 02 92614001.

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