28 March 2024

Awakening an artist in a child, or why art is so important in school education?

Develops creativity, awakens self-awareness, helps regulate emotions. The impact of the art is more important for children than one might think.

Author: Maria Mazurek,


Photo: Bernard Hermant?unsplash

Art is inherent in humanity. Moreover, some neurobiologists believe it to be its essence. The ability to create, experience, and evaluate art is a characteristic feature of Homo sapiens. Humans have been creating since ancient times, as evidenced by cave paintings from the Paleolithic era. Also from the Paleolithic era comes the Venus of Willendorf – a simple figurine carved from limestone and covered with a layer of red ochre, discovered by workers in Austria at the beginning of the 20th century.

Art is “embedded” in the human brain. In children’s brains – especially so. Children traditionally love to draw, build constructions with blocks, or creatively decorate their rooms.

Scientists argue that we should nurture this natural predisposition of children, and school is the most suitable place for it. Through art, children learn to express their emotions and thoughts, but also to interpret what is happening around them.

Dusting off the daily life

Art is a cognitive attention training, the ability to focus on intellectual stimuli. It builds concentration, critical thinking, problem-solving skills in children. It is the best nourishment for their creativity. Perhaps that is why, as Albert Einstein said, “the greatest scientists are also artists.”

Furthermore, the British Mental Health Foundation has proven that engaging with art significantly improves mental health, reducing stress levels and becoming a “breather” from the daily routine full of stressful stimuli.

As Pablo Picasso said, “the purpose of art is to wash away the dust of everyday life.”

On the other hand, a study by Eftychia Stamkou, a researcher from Amsterdam, published last year in the journal “Psychological Science,” showed that children exposed to art are more humble, kind, and better at coping with stress. The researcher conducted it on 159 children aged 8 to 13 years.

It’s not a waste of time

In Austria, France, and Finland, there are special, mandatory handicraft classes, and in the latter country, artistic and non-artistic subjects are combined in blocks, during which primary school students prepare choreography for dance performances or write dramatic works, which they later stage during school performances. This teaches children not only sensitivity and creativity but also teamwork, communication, and responsibility.

In France, primary school students, as part of optional subjects, learn such areas as the art of taste and circus arts. In Greece, children have special classes in architecture, including observation, planning, and designing shapes.

Similarly, the Spanish take the role of art in school education very seriously. There, autonomous communities, collaborating with local authorities and the students themselves, enable them to prepare exhibitions of photographic works or performances.

In Poland, art, in the context of education for the youngest, is often depreciated.” Parents often believe that artistic subjects – art and music – do not have the same rank as mathematics or history. Meanwhile – as neurobiologist Prof. Jerzy Vetulani observed in the book “Without Limits. How the brain rules us” – nothing develops a child’s brain as much as artistic classes. People think they waste their own and their child’s time by teaching them to play an instrument or sending them to dance. They think: they won’t become professional musicians or dancers anyway. It’s not wasted time. Such a child will think faster and more effectively, which will be useful in learning other subjects – he explained.

His words are confirmed by a report from the magazine “Education Next,” whose researchers looked at almost 16,000 students, mainly from primary schools, in the years 2016-2018. It turned out that after introducing an additional arts education program into their schools, children began to achieve better results in writing, but also showed a higher level of empathy and engagement in their educational process.

Awakening the artist

In Poland, every student – including those from non-artistic schools – has music and plastic classes. Another issue is their quality. Some teachers are so committed to inspire children with art rather than force it upon them. However, this is not the rule.

For artistic classes to make sense, they must be creative, diverse, and emphasize values such as cooperation, student discussion, the opportunity for free interpretation of works of art.

Children should also have the opportunity to express themselves through their own creative work, but the teacher should remember that – while everyone has the ability to express themselves through art – not every form of it will be optimal for everyone. The teacher should leave his students the space to choose the most interesting and developmental form.

Access to works of art is also important. Trips to theaters, museums, concerts, or art galleries are a great idea and should be carried out as often as possible. In practice, access to cultural institutions is limited for schools located far from major urban centers. In this case, new technologies (including virtual reality and augmented reality) can be helpful, as they have the power to take the class on a journey to the finest museums without leaving school.

However, it is crucial for the teacher to talk to his students about art and the emotions it evokes in them. To leave them room for their own reflections, emotions, observations. To show them that each of us has an artist within us. All it takes is to awaken it.