Children and museums: art for the young
Art connects with the world; it nurtures critical and analytical thought, it develops creativity and the capacity to communicate and allows emotions to be recognised and managed. It is a powerful tool for teaching in and out of school. Today, museums make themselves available to the teachers, but also to families with resources to enhance unique learning experiences to transform the young.
“We have seen very interesting things”, “We have had fun” … Children get enthusiastic about nature, but how often do we hear them say this after visiting a museum? These comments are actually opinions from primary students who took part in a school visit to the Museo Reina Sofía. This appears in the Cuando algo es posible video on the actions of the Department of Education, and is voiced by those taking part in it.
It is now some time since museums stopped being simple containers of works of art to become spaces for learning. They organise activities, visits and specific workshops for schoolchildren and give teachers the resources to promote dynamic and memorable learning experiences inside and outside the classroom. As is often said, these are the lessons “that stick”.
On what is it based?
This is something now very much taken into account by the most innovative teaching methods, which revalue the classical principles of the 19th-century New School (Dewey, Montessori, Freinet, Decroly) of learning by doing (and playing) while respecting the intrinsic diversity of schools and turning the children into the leaders and artifices of their own learning, by connecting the school to other contexts of daily life such as museums.
“The resources outside the school provide exciting opportunities to learn while helping to stimulate imagination and personal expression; by placing the pupils in broader frameworks of time and space, they learn more easily about their cultural, technical and artistic inheritance”, the teacher Enriqueta Molina explains, who is the author of the study School and education outside the classroom: the contribution of external scenarios to learning. It is the same as “assuming that pupils are active learners who touch, feel, experience and create”.
Benefits of visiting museums
Art is a powerful tool to stimulate some of the capacities required ever more in 21st-century society.
It is valuable to know the past, to understand the present and to make out the future. It fosters critical and analytical thought, specifically linked to the reading of images, something so basic in today’s surroundings in which the information we receive is ever more visible.
And very importantly too, it develops creativity, not only in plastics, but also applied in a broader sense to problem solving. “The more complex the world becomes, the more creative we need to be to face its challenges”, affirms the philosopher pedagogue José Antonio Marina. Along the same line, the British educator Ken Robinson says that “the highest form of intelligence consists of thinking creatively” and in his TED conference paper “Do schools kill creativity?” he stresses the need for an educational system that feeds, rather than undermining, creativity.
“Artistic expressions are closely related to social life and favour the creation of bonds of affection and confidence. They also facilitate communication and contribute powerfully to knowing the world and rebuilding it in accordance with the symbolic and imaginative processes that children develop at these ages”.
More and more specialists are in favour of introducing artistic education in all stages of teaching, especially in early infancy. “In recent times, neuroscientific, evolutive and pedagogical research has stressed that creativity and artistic education must form part of the fundamental axes of a good educational project, says the Organisation of Ibero-American States for Education, Science and Culture in a study published as Educational Goals 2021.
In direct contact with the works, an environment is created of free, fun and sensorial learning, of discovery and often physical exploration of ideas, focuses and materials, not subject to criteria strict or of success, which is highly motivating and useful to awaken youngsters’ interest in matters that are not always easy to communicate. It is also a privileged vehicle to work plastically and visually with emotions.
"The highest form of intelligence consists of thinking creatively"
How do we apply it?
Visits to museums are an excellent way to bring artistic education into the immediate surroundings of both the child’s school and family. Most museums today have education departments that organise multidisciplinary activities like guided or theatricalised tours and workshops run by monitors, artists and other cultural profiles to stimulate the participants.
- Museo Thyssen-Bornemizsa (Madrid
- Museo del Prado (Madrid)
- Museo de Arte Contemporáneo- MACBA (Barcelona)
- Museo Nacional de Arte de Cataluña-MNAC (Barcelona)
- Museo Guggenheim (Bilbao)
- Museo Picasso (Málaga)
- Museo Patio Herreriano (Valladolid)
- IVAM (Valencia)
- Tate Modern and Tate Britain (London)
- Museé du Louvre (Paris)
- Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin)
- Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam)
- MoMa (New York)
- Getty Center (Los Angeles).
There are different methods in artistic education, such as the MuPAI or Infant Pedagogical Museum method, which specialises in contemporary art workshops in infants and primary education. This starts with the use of visual representations of all kinds: artistic images, advertising, press, etc. that illustrate the concepts studied and link them to daily life. An example of this kind of workshop can be seen in the caption of “My feelings have colour!” which allows children to express their emotions and feelings through drawing.
All within what is known as Learning by Projects, using a previous selection of the contents that are going to be worked, it is possible to develop complex concepts by adapting the ideas of certain artists, using materials from crayons to strings, adhesives or balloons. The idea is that children should bring forth their fantasy, imagination, decision capacity and creativity, that they should abandon those obsolete parameters of drawing when there is enough time to do so or the corseted transmission of techniques that can make plastic education something lacking in emotion. For if children become excited and enjoy, they will come back and the learning process will be more significant and unending.
By Sara Puerto