The Importance of Art Education in a 21st Century Education

Below are the 8 habits of mind I use in my art studio. As an art teacher and a teacher of 15 years I deeply believe that the arts help prepare our children for 21st Century learning, thinking and work-related skills. It's one thing to teach a child concepts, vocabulary, and historical facts, but it's quite another form of learning to teach a child to think, work with their mistakes, persist, envision, express, observe, reflect, explore and understand. In teaching with the habits of mind as the 'umbrella' that guides all lessons and units we ensure that children will always embrace all situations with these helpful habits of thinking. In the art room, I don't teach the kids to be 'artists', I teach them to be independent thinkers and explorers of answers by following their own questions.

I have often been asked why I don't have kids make Picasso-like work, or Matisse-like work. While we still look at these artists and their work, we rarely waste time trying to merely emulate them or their style. In emulating another artist's work we dispossess the children of their own innovative abilities to find their own unique style. Instead, we discover what inspired these artists to do what they did and similarly look for our own inspirations in our own lives. In following our own inspirations we place value in our own ideas, our own stories, our own unique capabilities. When all else in school is simply telling kids what they should know, in the art studio kids learn to value their own voice and to verbalize, through art, their own expression of this world. The idea that you can only be exceptional at what you love is huge in the art studio. To simply create a Picasso-like face, we might make a pretty picture to take home, but kids will never walk away truly feeling like creators or innovators of their own ideas or concepts.

The arts, in fact, give children an enormous advantage in the future, when they hit the job market. Children who can follow these habits of mind (see below) can take everyday obstacles, in any field, and turn them into opportunities. When I hear people downplay the importance of my role as an art teacher in education, I immediately know they've never had a hands-on studio art experience. When I hear about art and music being cut from budgets to only be replaced with more seemingly academically-focused courses, I am saddened for those children, for they will only be further crippled by this lack of arts education in their lives. I am not creating artists, I am teaching an essential 'language' of seeing, creating and expressing that will undoubtedly enhance all forms of human interactions. Art is a life-changing experience.....and no education should be without it....


Studio Thinking Framework
Eight Habits of Mind

Develop Craft Photo

Develop Craft

Learning to use and care for tools (e.g., viewfinders, brushes), materials (e.g., charcoal, paint). Learning artistic conventions (e.g., perspective, color mixing).

Engage & Persist Photo

Engage & Persist

Learning to embrace problems of relevance within the art world and/or of personal importance, to develop focus and other mental states conducive to working and persevering at art tasks.

Envision Photo


Learning to picture mentally what cannot be directly observed and imagine possible next steps in making a piece.

Express Photo


Learning to create works that convey an idea, a feeling, or a personal meaning.

Observe Photo


Learning to attend to visual contexts more closely than ordinary "looking" requires, and thereby to see things that otherwise might not be seen.

Reflect Photo


Question & Explain: Learning to think and talk with others about an aspect of one’s work or working process.

Evaluate: Learning to judge one’s own work and working process and the work of others in relation to standards of the: field.

Stretch & Explore Photo

Stretch & Explore

Learning to reach beyond one's capacities, to explore playfully without a preconceived plan, and to embrace the opportunity to learn from mistakes and accidents.

Understand Art World

Understand Art World

Domain: Learning about art history and current practice.

Communities: Learning to interact as an artist with other artists (i.e., in classrooms, in local arts organizations, and across the art field) and within the broader society.


Questioning a sense of UNITY derived through war

It's interesting to note how the sense of unity we derive from being in a war is often mistaken for true and genuine collaboration and human unity. Yet, when we feel such a sense of togetherness while also taking sides, we must always question whether we are indeed united on principles that foster true togetherness and honorable and noble values.

I was a teenager when I first heard the lyrics to John Lennon's Imagine. These lines below spoke to me very strongly
"Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace"
I have often wondered could we really exist and be together without also feeding this need to be on one side of a war, a country, or even a religion. Let's look at sports for example. This past week, I got to see the pre-game chats on TV that happen right before the Superbowl. As a woman and a novice in matters of sports I was utterly shocked at the intensity of emotion and almost over-the-top touchy-fealy expressiveness of the men. It was very obvious that to some people, these events have taken on a crusade-like feel. It fed a very basic human need to be on one side, and root for it as hard as one could.

The other day I was driving and saw a bumper sticker that read, "God Bless The United States of America." Whenever I see these stickers I wonder why not ask God to bless the whole world, while you're at it. What makes the people in the USA more deserving of blessing? I think again, in trying to feed our need to be on the 'right team', we fail to see the enormous potential of genuine human togetherness. Patriotism and people who are way over the top in being patriotic often evoke the same questions to come up in my mind.

There are more subtle ways we all try to get our way to the right 'team' every day. I use to work at another school where a coworker was very religious. I did not mind hearing about her belief, I was very curious about how she defined her universe and all the mysteries that come with it. Interestingly, at the end of my time there I came to realize she had no idea what my beliefs were or that I was a Buddhist. To me this proves that in absence of information, our minds tend to categorize people into 'teams' anyway.

I have come to learn that to find true peace one must systematically de-categorize all people in our lives (including ourselves) and value and use purely what is tangible and true, before us. I have also come to realize this de-categorizing takes enormous effort, for it's not innate in us humans to not categorize each other. Our egos are constantly categorizing at all available opportunities. In categorizing we feel a quick and cheap sense of being on the 'right' and justify stagnancy in our growth. I have found that true peace is found when we rise above the ego-driven sense of unity derived from war and seek a higher level of human togetherness.


Check out my new juicer!!!

My juicer died today after only 2 months of daily juicing...the one before it lasted 3 months of daily juicing.....so I treated myself to a Brevelle juicer...hopefully this one will last longer...

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