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