Why art should play an essential role in education? _ Nicola Prähauser


When I was still at school, the music and art lessons were always my favourite lessons.
Maybe that was based on my general love for these two activities, but also most of my class mates seemed to enjoy these lessons in particular.
I suppose the reason for this is the fact that the music and art lessons were one of the few lessons, when we did not have the usual ex-cathedra teaching, but some rather relaxed time. We could actually have nice conversations with our teachers while working on our drawings and free our heads from the exhausting things we stuffed into them in the lessons before.
Fortunately, in the schools that I went to art did not miss out too much during the other lessons neither. With our English teacher in middle school we often sang songs in English (that he was also our music teacher might have played a not insignificant role) and we rehearsed short theatre plays and dialogues. In high school we sometimes wrote our own poems in German lessons. Even during our Maths classes in middle school we once in a while connected the normal lesson with some art. We listened to the radio while everyone had some calculations to do. Of course, we were obliged to be very quiet meanwhile. For some students it might not work to listen to music while working on maths and it might be a little extreme, but in our class it worked. Personally, I still listen to music when I study something, also maths. By the way, I am listening to music right now, as well.  Music makes people feel good, or at least it makes people feel, so using it at school is a way to make children feel comfortable.
Competition. This is the thing that is in the heads of the children most of the time in most subjects. Maybe not consciously, but what is already rewarded in primary school? In maths it is the student that solves the calculations the fastest, in biology it is the one that has the most right answers on a test and in German it is the one that made the fewest mistakes in their text. The difference with art is, that it is not measureable. Art is something very subjective that everybody sees, hears or feels differently. Indeed it is possible to compare pieces of art with each other, but just to see the commons and differences, not which one is the better. Different persons might have different points of view.
Art is something that should be created within groups in many cases in the first place, so the goal is to achieve something together. This can be a dance performance, the creation of a piece of art or the installation of a photo gallery with the whole class.
At the same time art makes it possible to support the individual creativity of every child. While mathematics seek for one right result to a question, art makes endless solutions possible. Every child can find their own way to express themselves. An obvious example are visual arts. If the teacher gives the children the topic “Underwater” to draw, one child would maybe draw a person diving, another child would draw a whale and yet another child would draw Atlantis. So three different answers to the teacher’s request, but all are right answers. Of course I do not want to say, that the mathematical way of finding one correct solution is bad, but especially at a young age children should learn both things. I feel like at many schools the artistic side is sometimes underrepresented.
As I mentioned before, the artistic subjects always used to be my favourite subjects at school. Firstly, because they were just fun, but also because after a lesson of music or art it was way easier to concentrate on something complicated again. But what actually is necessary, are more the artistic inputs during all the “normal” lessons.

– And how we use it in our organisation

As volunteers in the organisation A.C.T.O.R we go among other things to kindergartens and schools to give lessons for the children in Bucharest. As the name of the association already tells – Cultural Association for Theatre and Origami in Bucharest – art plays an important role in our work: theatre as the art of acting and origami as the Japanese art of paper folding. Besides the knowledge about our countries that we try to transmit to the children we use a lot of creativity and invite the children to do the same.
To begin the lesson in both schools and kindergartens we usually do an energizer, which can contain movements, songs or dances. These energizers intend to wake the children up and show them that now we will be doing something else than the normal school lessons. But also for regular teachers it would be highly recommendable to do these short mind freeing games. At least when I was a student I always thought they worked miracles.
After the energizer I usually teach the children some interesting facts about my home country, but in a not too dry way. If not already during the presentation, then at least afterwards I let the children create art through which they can process what they just learned, for example through crafts or drawings. And of course, letting the children listen to music during my lesson is a must. Many children know who the famous composer Mozart from my home country is, but when I let them listen to “Die Kleine Nachtmusik” they mostly react with “aaaaah, this is Mozart”.
So, to sum this up, art should always be included in the education of children, because it makes them discover and develop their own creativity. Moreover, it gives them the possibility to clear their heads and they can see their own individual works being appreciated as well as their team spirit being improved.

~ Nicola Prähauser: volunteer from Austria in Bucharest, 30.01.2020

SolidAIR is a ACTOR project supported by the ESC – European Solidarity Corps programme.

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