I recently had an “adult art experience.” A girlfriend and I attended a social painting class as a girl’s night out. There was wine and paint and good conversation. Sounds wonderful, right? Well, it was fun to be a student again and I loved the atmosphere of the studio and the art materials (okay, and the wine), but…. something was missing.
What could possibly be wrong with that scenario, you ask?
The problem was the lesson. This was, by far, the most “cookie cutter” art experience I have ever had in my life as a teacher or a student. The teacher stood in the front of the class and told us what color, what brush, what brush stroke and even when to rinse our brushes. Everyone’s project looked a tiny bit different at the end, but basically they were the same. I felt absolutely no ownership or pride in my finished product. I didn’t have to think or process or make any choices.
I enjoyed myself and had a fun night with my girlfriend, but I didn’t learn anything new or leave feeling in any way inspired. This experience made me stop and think about my own instructional techniques, lessons and classroom environment. I paid money and spent my time working on a project that I brought home and sadly put directly in the recycling bin. The thought that my students might do the same with their artwork makes me cringe! I couldn’t help but ask myself: Am I cultivating creativity? Do my students demonstrate pride in their art work? Are they thinking (maybe even sometimes failing) and learning something along the way? Am I providing a meaningful art experience? Are my students leaving my classroom inspired to create?
I know this is a debatable subject, but in my opinion there is no place for “cookie cutter” lessons in today’s art rooms! Even basic skills and step-by-step techniques can be taught with an ounce of inspiration and a dash of problem-solving.
If you are looking for a fresh new approach and agree with me, AOE has a few new projects cooking. Download AOE’s free lesson plans written by certified art teachers and brimming with creativity, problem-solving and 21st century skills. Also, our newest class, Instructional Strategies will be premiering this summer jammed with ideas to keep you and your students inspired no matter the media.
What is your take on “cookie cutter” lessons? Do they belong in the art room?
Have you heard of “Adult Social Painting Classes” before? Ever attended one?
PS. For another great conversation on this topic- Check out this article from Art Project Girl.