Current Promotions
Refine by


Teaching Art Through History as a Right Brained Activity

By Sharon Jeffus


I believe that art can be incorporated with many different core subjects. This combination offers children an opportunity for creative problem solving and inventive thinking while reinforcing core learning. Art that is integrated into regular class subjects can be a refreshing switch from typical left-brain activities that monopolize most school days. This breaking of class routine refreshes and revitalizes the students, and is so much fun, we won’t even tell them that they have been learning!

It is remarkable the number of great scientists and inventors that were artists first. This fact alone makes it simple to incorporate both science and history into art. In our own American history, we have Samuel Morse, the inventor of Morse code. He was a talented artist who did historical pictures. Robert Fulton is sometimes called the Leonardo da Vinci of America. He not only invented the steamboat, but also studied painting in England with great master artists. My very favorite scientist/artist is George Washington Carver who first painted the beauty of his wonderful plants before beginning the inventive activities he is so famous for.

As you can see, one doesn’t have to search far to find men of history that were accomplished at both art and science. Studying science by drawing (observations, building models, inventions, architectural structures, plant and animal cells, etc.) all can add to the core learning fun and enhance learning.

In the history of man, the first scientific illustrator was the great artist Leonardo da Vinci. He explored what was inside of the human body, theorized about how it worked, and left detailed anatomical pictures still in use today. Some believe his attention to detail of underlying structures is how he was able to became a master at painting the beauty of the human face and figure as well. Children can do research and then draw and color their own books on anatomy. They can build the human skeleton out of poster board, or model with clay the internal organs. They could dissect a frog and draw the results step by step as they think of Leonardo making his anatomical sketches for future generations.

Other people that could be studied are too numerous to mention, but a few of my favorites are: the great Renaissance architect Brunelleschi (discovered the laws of perspective). He also built a beautiful dome that could only be imagined in previous eras. A good idea is to allow children to design their dream house and then attempt to build it three-dimensionally with mat board scraps and a glue gun. Galileo drew first what he saw in the telescope. Take students to an observatory with sketchpad in hand and allow them to draw what they see, or let them draw what they see through ordinary binoculars. The great engraver Dürer was the forerunner of the modern day political cartoonist. Most of his works were masterpieces in Christian communication. He worked for the Gutenberg press and his art was in sharp contrast to the illuminated texts that preceded Gutenberg’s wonderful invention. For children to remember the high points and lives of the great artists of the Renaissance, it is good to allow them to do a project after your explanation. This is active learning as opposed to passive learning. In passive learning, students read and listen to information and then regurgitate what they have learned. In active learning they take part in the learning process.

Sharon Jeffus has a B.S.S.E. in art education from John Brown University and continued on to get her certification to teach English from the University of Arkansas. She taught ESL at University of Missouri at Rolla and art for 10 years in the public schools before she began homeschooling her sons. She has been a homeschool mom for 10 years. She studied painting at Metropolitan in Denver and took sculpting at Southern Illinois University. She has written a variety of books that teach art and use art to reinforce core curriculum subjects. She and her husband founded Visual Manna, a company that provides art curriculum and teaches homeschool support groups art across the country.  Their goal is to encourage and mentor young Christian artists across America.  


Copyright 2003.
Originally appeared in Winter 2003. Used with permission.
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.


 Visit our Art Store

 Visit our Visual Manna Store


Homeschool Article Center

Need Homeschool Help? Get curriculum advice!

List of State Homeschool Organizations