Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the most widely recognized artists in the world. His contributions to the existence of man span from engineering, to construction, to anatomy, to weaponry and to art. I have heard it asked why there are no modern day equivalents to Leonardo Da Vinci. Surely today we live in a world much more advanced than that of Da Vinci? And, equitable education is much more available for most children than ever before. So, indeed, why is there no modern equivalent to Da Vinci?
I believe it is because Da Vinci was profoundly involved in the process of creation in such a way that he expanded his mind through creativity and through his fearlessness in the face of mistakes. We know such an exercise as play. And, today, we rarely approach learning or life in such a playful manner.
Educational theorist and philosophy Lev Vygotsky links creative accomplishments not to superior intelligence, but rather to play. He believes through the process of play children are able to achieve their purest form of creativity. Vygotsky states: "In play a child is always above his average age, above his daily behavior; in play, it as though he were a head taller than himself."
There is no better educational place for imaginative brain play than in the art-room. I strive to design my classroom in such a way that, within the confines of lesson and structure, my students have optimal conditions for creative, imaginative play. One of my favorite mantras when asked by a student what he or she should add/do/take-away from an art project is: "You are the artist. You must decide." It is vitally important to me that my students view their creative endeavors as a sort of problem-solving exercise wherein I, the instructor, am there to provide support, but wherein they are chief creators.
My lessons, which I design to be inter-disciplinary and base upon art theory and the constructivist learning model, are entirely open-ended. For example, while I may ask my students to paint a specific item, I leave the assignment open to many different interpretations of said item. It is critical to me my students view art creation as a problem-solving exercise. The assignment is the problem, and the end result should be their response. In my classroom all answers are welcomed and discussed; even those that may be difficult.
Through creative brain play my students create not only stronger and more profound artwork on both a visual and emotional level, but also develop stronger creative skills overall. According to art critic and writer Ulla Maaria Matanen, "artful questions trigger projects that, once we embark on them, make us smarter than we were before." While art is always central to my heart, curriculum, and classroom, I want to develop students into stronger learners overall. Studies show that creative transference from the art room to other disciplines is possible, but often doesn't occur because such transference isn't described to students. Since transference is of primary concern for me, I spend a great deal of time in class discussing how creative skills we develop within the art-room can be used in other disciplines and other life circumstances.
It is vital to me that my students' creative thinking skills make them stronger Math, Science, Language Arts, Social Studies students, and better learners overall. This is vital because in today's ever-growing age of technology, business, and design it is crucial learners learn to teach themselves. Through the implementation of thoughtful lessons that encourage independent creative thinking and play, I am able to achieve this goal.