Nurturing self-expression through art; Why Art, How Art: A Comprehensive Curriculum Guide, by Jane Cook Bryant. Seattle: Special Child Publications. 304 pp. $49.50.
Children often respond enthusiastically to good art instruction. For many youngsters, art is a natural and enjoyable means of self-expression. As an art teacher, gallery director, and professional artist, Jane Bryant sees art training as a way to reveal and cultivate a child's innate creative intelligence. Within the school curriculum, she believes art instruction can play a significant role in helping a child develop problem-solving skills that can be applied to other subject areas.
In this thorough curriculum guide, Bryant explores both the philosophical and practical aspects of teaching art. Her philosophy is based on the idea that all individuals possess innate creativity, which can be uncovered and expressed.
The book is rich in practical advice for teachers and includes clearly explained art lessons as the basis for planning a firm but flexible art curriculum.
The 21 lessons described in the book are planned sequentially and can be adapted to differing grade levels. The lessons teach the basic art principles of printmaking, paper design, contour drawing, painting, clay mobiles, collage, and other media. The guide also offers one-day lessons that can be used for variety, special projects for holidays, and suggestions for displaying and evaluating a child's work.
The art lessons described in the book are structured by clear steps leading to the completion of a particular project. Each is illustrated with examples of children's art. A theme, a technique, or limitations of color or materials may be set to define the art problem. Within this framework, students are free to experiment, make decisions, and arrive at their own answers to the lesson.
A particularly valuable section discusses how to recognize various stages in a child's art development. For most young children, drawing is a spontaneous activity and one of their earliest forms of communication. As children grow older, art education helps refine a child's artistic expression through increased knowlege and facility with various media. Properly taught, art can help develop self-confidence, aspiration, involvement, inner directedness, sensitivity, and originality.
The book also devotes substantial attention to teaching art to children with special needs. As well as uncovering the creativity inherent in each child, art instruction can help these children develop mental skills such as reasoning, the ability to make decisions, and an improvement in attitude. According to Bryant, teaching art to these students generally requires resourcefulness, patience, and good humor. In maintaining discipline, she advises, teachers should learn to reject negative behavior patterns rather than the child or his artwork.
Bryant emphasizes that a teacher does not need to be an artist in order to teach art. Talent in art may be reassuring and helpful, she says, but it is secondary to a talent for organizing and structuring lessons for maximum motivation. More important is the teacher's recognition of each child's limitless potential to create.