Why Art Works

By |2023-03-31T13:13:05-07:00September 22nd, 2022|


Why Art Works for Teachers 

Welcome to our new podcast, Art WORKS for Teachers. In this episode, host Susan Riley shares what to expect in this series. She’ll also explore the act of creative curiosity and shares a simple activity you can use to observe on purpose.

Resource Download

Enjoy this free download of the Observe Your Own Art-Venture Activity.

Hey everyone. I’m Susan Riley, the founder of the Institute for arts integration and steam and the host of our new podcast. Art works for teachers. Now, if you don’t know anything about the Institute or me or this show, um, I just give, I’ll give you a brief introduction. So, um, I’m an arts integration specialist.

I am an entrepreneur. I taught music K five music. For about 10 years. And then I went into central office as an arts integration specialist for one of the largest systems in the state of Maryland. And the entire time that I was doing that I was documenting, um, the process for arts integration through a small little blog called education closet.

That blog has turned into the Institute for arts integration and steam with fully accredited courses and membership programs and certifications for arts integration and steam for teachers, we get the honor and privilege of working with over 800,000 educators each and every month through our site.

It’s phenomenal. And so, um, and I have a team of fantastic educators that I get to work with every single day to help teachers everywhere be, get, become, and increase creativity in the classroom. So, um, it’s really exciting to be here with you now, the Institute has had. Several podcast shows over the last several years.

Uh, we started with the creatively connected podcast, which is now the K12 art chat podcast. And Matt and Laura grand are doing an amazing job, um, on taking that to flight . Um, we’ve had, um, teaching trailblazers where we’ve highlighted teachers who are doing amazing things. We’ve had the spark chasers podcast where I shared specifics on how to use arts integration.

Um, and we had last year, the artist Chronicle series, which is actually a podcast made just for kids and it’s an artist mystery series. So that was really fun to produce so that we could kind of spotlight artists that perhaps students didn’t, weren’t aware of or didn’t know about. And they got to learn about these amazing artists in all kinds of disciplines.

This podcast though, um, I. Super excited about if you can’t tell, um, because I think it’s gonna cover a broad scope for educators. And particularly right now, it’s something that we all need. So the artwork for teachers title is a play on words. It’s a little tongue in cheek, right? Um, Because it’s not about artworks in terms of identifying specific artworks that you can use in the classroom.

Although sneak peek, I am gonna offer some of those a little bit later on in the. But it’s actually meaning meaning that art works, that is actually doing a great job in and out of the classroom, um, for teachers. So it can be a tool that you can use to bring in more creative ideas and thoughts from your students.

It can also be a wonderful, uh, tool to experience in and of itself. And it can be something that inspires your own creative joy and brings you. To where, uh, you want to be as an educator. If you listen to the trailer and if you haven’t, you can go back and listen to it. And it’s really brief. It’s only about a minute.

Um, but we talk about this idea of, can we save education because quite frankly, the last 24 months, um, we’ve noticed, I think, as a collective, as an educational community, that education has now changed forever. It will never be what it was prior to the, the 2020 pandemic. Um, and it’s just something we have to acknowledge, but with all of that said with the, the teachers leaving and the administrators having limited choices and our students having been through trauma and needing to learn how to, how to school again.

Right. Um, is there a way to save this? And I passionately believe that the arts are an avenue to do so. So part of the reason that we’re beginning this podcast and what I’m excited. It’s to take a look at how do the arts do that? And I know that I can’t do that alone. So, um, part of what this podcast will be is interviews with authors and artists and creatives and entrepreneurs and leaders and coaches, anyone who has had creative experiences and can share their journey with us so that we can kind of look for these creative.

That they leave. Um, I think with any kind of a story, there is a clue or something that we can take along with us, um, as, and on our own journey. Right. And so, um, I’m gonna be interviewing lots of different people, as well as sharing my own perspectives with you so that you have these little nuggets of, of gold that you can take with you and slowly begin.

Refilling your creative cup. I think something that is, has been missed in all of the, the talk about teacher shortages and, uh, moving into different career paths. Something that we talk a lot about is burnout. But what we don’t talk about is how do you recover from burnout? And, um, I myself have dealt with this many people on my staff have dealt with this, particularly because of the pervasive, negative thinking that’s going on in the.

And even if you’re the most positive person ever, when you’re surrounded by lots of negative thinking, it can take a toll and it’s not just about positive thinking and, and willing it in. Right. It’s more about the idea that negative thinking. Is not just the opposite of positive thinking. Negative thinking has been an underlying current of negativity.

That’s running its energy in and through all of us. And so that’s gonna take a toll, right? It’s gonna zap you of your joy. And so my question is, how do we get it back? How do we get back our passion? How do we get back the creativity that spurs us forward? Because I do believe that creativity is the fingerprint of the human spirit.

Every single person has something inside of them that lights them up and that you could do forever. Lots of scientists call that flow. Um, but I really think that’s your creative. So how do we tap back into that and refill that cup so that we can then find joy in what we’re doing? With or without students.

Right. So that’s kind of the idea of the show and what we’re gonna be covering. So if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, Hmm, this makes me a little uncomfortable right now. Right? Like I’m not quite sure that this is right for me because I’m not a creative person or, um, I’m not really looking to use more creative approaches in my classroom right now.

I’m just really trying to get the kids caught up. Um, and that’s. Every bit of effort that I have. I totally hear you. And that’s why we are taking the approach that we are in this show in that it’s not gonna be all tactical. I’m a hugely tactical person. I love strategies. I love having a plan. Um, I’m not typical type a person that loves the step by step.

Right. Um, the, one of the biggest learnings for me in the last 24. Is that not everything has a plan, not everything has a strategy. And sometimes you need to look outside of your comfort zone in order to refill your well in order for you to, um, kind of reimagine what you look like again. Right. And so that’s why I’ll when I’m interviewing authors during the show, you’re gonna find that some of them are, are educators or education based.

Some of them are just fun. Like some of them are from fictional reads that I just dove into this summer and I loved them. And I want you to hear from those authors about their creative process and, and their own journeys with creativity, so that no matter what, you get a little spark of something. So, um, which this reminds me of something that happened not too long ago, um, with my own.

Family. So, you know, with in the last 24 months, we’ve, we’ve all learned how to, um, be with our families or when we need time alone from our families. Right. And so I’m fortunate enough. Um, in most days that I live about five miles away from most of my family members, both on my side and on my husband’s.

And so my parents actually live on a farm. Um, it’s a working cattle farm. My parents are in their late sixties headed or into their seventies, and they’re still working this farm. Um, I grew up on a dairy farm. They, when, when I moved back, uh, to this area in Maryland, they decided. Follow me, but find a farm where they could work it in a way that honors the area itself.

So they have heritage breed, cows and chickens and pigs that would’ve grown here in the 17 hundreds when this area was founded, which is, is great. Right. Um, so I have loved being able to take my daughter over there to the farm and to be able to visit it. And especially during the pandemic to be able to get out into nature.

Was something that I needed desperately. And, um, so one day my, my mom had this morning glory that she had planted. And I don’t know if you know what a morning glory is. It’s kinda like a vine. It has this beautiful, uh, Uh, flower, uh, usually their purple in it that blooms in the morning. And then they will literally close up in the afternoon, kind of save their energy.

I like that, by the way. , I’m good in the morning, my afternoon. I, I kind of close up just like that. Right. Um, and it’s a vine, so it can, it can really climb very high. Um, and I, I just love it as a flower. My mom likes to plant them because it’s an easy thing that, that you can plant that, that brings a little happiness.

Right. Um, doesn’t take a lot to take care of it. Well, this particular morning glory, um, patch that she had going on, she had to dig them all out and re and replant them elsewhere on the farm, because they had decided to build a farmer’s market building in this particular location. So she had to, to move them all and transplant them.

And she had done that. And then they had built this building. And, um, I know she had been sad because particularly where she had had those morning lorries, it was just, it was right in front of the driveway. It looked really beautiful. Um, so one morning when I went over to the farm, um, during the pandemic, I was, I was headed over there just to kind of grab some eggs and, and some meat that I needed.

And I pulled up onto the parking pad and I notice. On the other side of the concrete pad, where the original morning GL had been, there were new morning glories growing. And so I walked into the market and I, I told my mom, I was like, mom, You were never gonna believe this, but there’s a morning glory going morning glory growing over here.

And so how did, like, did you plant that? Or she said, no. What happened was that there was a root system that, that we hadn’t completely dug up when we put the concrete pad in and over the winter that vine kept growing and growing and reaching for the. Break of light . That was on the other side of that concrete pad.

And I finally found it and now it’s growing again. So why do I say this? Right, right. Why am I bringing this up? Um, for me, what that taught me was that you can still be persistent in seeking the light no matter how bad it is, no matter how dark it is. You can still persist and continue to grow and push and seek the light.

That’s on the other side. It’s where everything else lives. It’s right on the other side of your discomfort. So if you’re feeling a little uncomfortable right now, thinking about, I’m not that creative of a, of a person, I wanna challenge you to be the morning glory. I want you to, to think about, even if this might not quite be my cup of tea, is there something that I can reach for?

Is there something that I can, can reach out and see if I can find the light? Because it may give you what exactly it is, what that you. So, how do you start or continue to spark creativity in your classroom? If this is the crooks of it, and we believe that creativity, the power of the arts themselves are gonna be what helps to save education and turn it around.

Right? How do we start or continue that? I really think that the easiest way to begin is to start with committing to curiosity. If you think about it, Every creative nugget starts as a kernel of curiosity. So being able to question, being able to think about why is that, that way, or where is something, or how do I do something?

It’s this little spark of creativity that you begin with, or curiosity rather that leads you to the next piece and that to the next piece, after that. And after that, and soon before, you know, You’re creating and you are, you’re seeking that creative. You know, um, feeling that you get. So you wanna be open to observing and asking questions and to see where they take you.

Right. Oftentimes I think we’re afraid to ask those questions, um, because we’re afraid of where it’s gonna lead. Right. We kind of anticipate this is gonna take me some place that I am not currently familiar with. And that makes me. So one of the places to begin with with creativity is being open to curiosity and being open to where that curiosity takes you.

Not only you as a person, you as a teacher. Because that will spark a whole lot of insights. Right? So if we’re thinking about this from our teacher lens, you could be seeking a new teaching method. You could be looking for a new way to do your grades so that you’re not working until midnight every night, trying to get it all done.

Right. You could be seeking if you’re. You’re having issues with a student and that you just can’t seem to get through to them. You could be looking for something and being curious about why is it that I can’t seem to break through there? Where is that gonna take me and be open to where those questions lead?

Right? There’s so many ways that that can, can work as a teacher. If we think about under our personal. Being open to curiosity allows us to personally grow right to think and consider, is this something I wanna keep doing? If it is something I wanna keep doing, but I’m still, I’m still feeling this way.

Where are the areas that are holding me back? What are the things that I need to focus on? What are the other things that I need to let go of these curious question? And then being open to the answers that, that we find. Right. Um, and not judging the answers that we find. I think that is key to really opening up our, um, our ability to be creative.

And if we think about how to use this with our students, Um, lots of times students don’t know how to be curious. I think this is really interesting when we start as very young children, right? So I’m talking about pre-K kindergarten, we’re playing, and that is how we. See curiosity, right? That’s how it, it’s naturally a part of, of what we do as children is what does this do and how do I, how does that work?

And soon before, you know, it you’re over on the playground and you created a castle somewhere and emote with something else that you didn’t know about, right. You just kind of build upon the curiosity and somewhere along the way we lose that. And when I was teaching elementary school, I really saw that happen in third and fourth.

By fifth grade students were not nearly as curious or open to curiosity as my youngest students were. And so they forget, they forget how to be curious and then what to do with that curiosity. Um, once they find it. Right. So one of the activities that I use is called observe your own art venture. And so if you’re watching this on YouTube, you’re gonna see me share my screen in just a second.

Um, so that you can see what the, the handout looks like. If you’re listening to me, don’t you can’t visually see it. You can always come back to arts, and you can download the, um, the activity that I’m gonna share with you today. And that happens on every episode, by the way. So there will always be a, uh, a downloadable that you can.

All right. So the art venture worksheet here’s I love this, um, particular worksheet because it again gives your students the opportunity to one make choices and two pursue curiosity. So in the observe your own, uh, art adventure, art venture, we give them three specific pieces. So in the worksheet example that I’m sharing, I have a visual art piece, um, called reflecting pool capital from Sarah Morris, who is the artist.

I have, um, something called box street, prelude. Which is a piece of music from Vanessa may as the artist, she is a, an electric violinist and there’s a stepping routine, a stepping dance routine from the Bryan station high school, um, where students could watch their step routine. So students get to select one of these options.

And so they may choose to look at the piece of artwork that is being shared. They might wanna listen to the piece of music or they might wanna watch the. Either one doesn’t matter. Um, there are links to each of them on the, the worksheet as well as a QR code. So if they have, uh, their devices with them, they could scan them.

And if they’re on a laptop or a computer, they could click on it and then be able to see it in larger, um, in a, in a larger viewer, um, or listen to it if they need to. So they’re gonna pick one of these pieces and it’s important that they only pick one because you need to, it’s a, it’s an observation. So they pick one and they’re gonna observe their piece for three minutes.

Um, and while they’re observing it, they’re gonna write down everything that comes into their brain while they’re observing it. So if they’re looking at a piece of, at the piece of artwork, they might write down, I notice a variety of colors. There’s a lots of, there’s lots of red, some pinks, there’s some like, uh, yellow, green, there’s lots of lines.

There’s intersections. Go on and on and everything that you can get down in three minutes, you’re gonna put onto the worksheet. Um, same for if you’re listening or if you’re watching the step routine, anything that your brain comes up with, you’re gonna write it down into the, um, observation area. Once they’ve done that.

And you need to allow them the full three minutes to do it because it’s gonna make them uncomfortable after about 30. After 30 seconds, they’re gonna think they have everything written down that they, that they need. And so the remaining two and a half minutes, they’re gonna be sitting there kind of like, huh?

Is there anything else? Is there anything else? Right. And they’ll surprise themselves with what else they notice. Right. What else? They’re observ. Then after they’ve done that, they’re gonna observe their piece again for two more minutes. So they’re gonna start it again, but they’re not gonna write anything down.

They’re just gonna look at it or listen for two full minutes. And what this is gonna do is allow the brain time to make additional connection. The synapses in our brain, um, often are firing at such a rapid pace that we don’t even notice other things that are right in front of us. Okay. Um, and this is to protect our brains because it’s receiving so much visual and oral information at any given moment.

I think it’s like 60,000 pieces of information are coming to your brain. Every single. There’s no way that your brain is able to notice all of it. So just by slowing down for an additional two minutes, without anything else to do is going to allow your brain to deeply observe what, whatever it is with in your art piece that you’ve chosen.

After those two minutes are over. You’re gonna observe the piece again, this time. You’re not gonna have a time limit. And as you’re observing again, and you’ve had those two minutes to make those additional connections, look back at the writing that you did originally and think about what questions now come up now that I’ve had time to write down everything I was thinking.

And then take time to observe it again. What questions come up for me about this piece? And you write them. This is where you get curious. Right? Part of curiosity is just having. After you get those things written down, you’re gonna look at the questions above and then select your top two and think about, is this really what I want to know?

Those top two questions that come to the surface for you? It might be who is this artist or it might be, um, why did she choose the electric violin? I don’t care, whatever it is. Pick your top two. Is it what you really wanna know? If the answer is. You’re gonna use those questions to research and find your answers and share them with others.

And you have a space to write that below. If it’s not write down a better question, right? Write down a better question. That gets to the. Of what you wanna know, and then use that question to research and find your answer, share it with others and write it. So this art venture worksheet, um, helps students to really work on their curiosity skills, their observation skills, being able to slow down and make connections that they might not have otherwise seen.

This is also a great activity for us as educators. So if we’re doing this with our students, I actually highly recommend that you do this. Um, and you might wanna print all three pieces and do all three so that you can experience each of the three. Um, and then kind of talk about that as a class, which is a great conversation to have, particularly at this time of year, I’m recording this in September, which is the beginning of the year for most people.

So when you’re thinking about a beginning of the year activity, where you’re getting to know people getting to know the questions, they kind of ask where their stumbling points are. This is great, low risk opportunity to do. Okay. So I hope that you’ve found value in that activity. Um, one of the reasons that it works so well is that it helps us to ask better questions when you get to that section, that number five, when it’s asking what questions do you really wanna know?

It forces us to be better listeners and observers on purpose. Oftentimes we’re observ. Lots of different things going on, right. But this allows us to observe on purpose, which is a very different thing. It allows us to listen on purpose and that’s a whole skill in and of itself. Honey rock center for leadership development.

Um, does this really well with their three step process for better questions, which is, um, what, so what, and now what, right. So what happens. Did you notice what is over here right then? So what, so you noticed that, so what is different about it? What’s interesting about it. Um, and then once you’ve identified that now, what right now, what do we do next?

Um, we’re gonna be going into more detail about how to ask better questions in a later episode. So, um, I’m not gonna go into a ton of detail about that now, but this is a great starting off point to allow us to really ex explore that curiosity, which will then lead us to more creativity. So. Does art work for teachers?

I think that in this podcast series, this is gonna be our curiosity marker. Right? We’re gonna take a look at art from as many different angles that as we can find from authors to teachers, to makers and artists, so that we can continue to explore this idea of what does creativity really mean? What does it look like and how do we use it to.

What it is that we’re already doing. So until next time, stay curious and creative. And if you know another educator who could use this podcast, I’d be honored. If you would share it with them. I look forward to our journey together.

Additional Links Mentioned

HoneyRock Center for Leadership Development 3-Step Process to Ask Better Questions

HoneyRock Center for Leadership Development’s 3-Step Process for Better Questions 

The Art Works for Teachers Podcast helps teachers crack the code of creativity and use it as a hidden advantage in the classroom. Each week, we’ll use “creative clues” from authors, artists, and teachers to unlock the power of the arts and where it can take us in education today.

susan riley arts integration and steam Hosted by Susan Riley, Founder of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM