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Why Study Art in JK?
By: Junior Kindergarten Teachers Christie Castagno, Mary Dryden and Diane Vujnich
Junior Kindergarten explores the lives and works of great artists throughout our school year. We have found that their works of art not only enhance our curriculum, but also enrich the overall development of our youngest students. Piet Mondrian, Grandma Moses, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, and Vincent Van Gogh are just some of the artists we have studied.
Our children learn more about the artist than the painting, drawing, sculpture or photograph that he or she produced. We feel that it is important to introduce personal facts about the artist to help the children relate to the “actual person” who created the beautiful pieces that are found in museums around the world. Junior Kindergarteners know that Piet Mondrian didn’t like the color green; there is no green in most of his artwork. Grandma Moses lived in New York when it was still countryside and lived to be 101.
We then use an artist’s work to “inspire” our own Junior Kindergarten version of the same work. We use different mediums to help the children recreate the artists’ work. We emphasize that art is everywhere, and can be created using many different things, not just paint. When the children observe an artist’s work we talk about how the piece makes them feel and what the artist was possibly thinking or feeling as he created the piece. As a child creates art in our room we also emphasize that it is not important what his peers think of it, but what he (the artist) thinks of it and how it makes him feel. The emphasis always lies in the process, not the product.
Everything we do in Junior Kindergarten is cross-curricular, and art is no exception. Math is explored as we discuss shapes, counting, position and direction, patterns, and sorting. Science is drawn in as we observe colors, color mixing, textures and critical inquiry. Music, literature, humanities and vocabulary are all part of teaching children how to explore and appreciate Art. We are using visual discrimination and listening skills to make connections, encourage divergent thinking and create cultural understanding. Art appeals to multiple intelligences, using visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning. Skills using paint, pencils, scissors and glue can also be developed when exploring art media.
The St. Louis Art Museum is home to so many great works of art, and so much can be learned in just one visit. We encourage our families to make this a part of your recreation time with your children. As you travel this spring and summer, include an art museum in your itinerary. Find out what your child’s favorite piece is and learn more about the artist who created it. One of our students once recognized a Piet Mondrian print at the Magic House, of course, impressing everyone within earshot!
This is a curriculum that our children love, enjoy and look forward to. For the first time this May we will be having a Junior Kindergarten Original and “Inspired By” Art Gallery. Our hope is that we are nurturing the beginning of a lifelong appreciation and love of art.