Supporting the Creative Personality: Visual Arts in Lower Elementary

By Shanna Brown, Lower Elementary South Guide – 

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Pablo Picasso

Our world is filled with an extraordinary kind of wonder that is achieved through the interaction of color, line, shape and form. Consider the colors of the sky at sunrise, the lines created by a forest of bare branches, the patterns in the shell of a snail, the arch of the bridge as it spans a river–beauty surrounds us. Honoring the child as an active and evolving creator, our Montessori environments are prepared to celebrate this beauty and provide every child with opportunities for observation, experimentation, analysis, synthesis, and expression. Our over-arching goals are to develop within the child a lifelong drive towards innovation and aptitude and it is my belief that artistic pursuits are integral in achieving these goals.

Through discussions and studio experiences, the child learns to appreciate the ability, knowledge and skill of fine artists and crafts people. By handling sculpting materials, mixing colors, working with the composition of a collage, using brushes, carving wood, or creating textiles with needles or a loom, the child enters the working world of artists in pursuit of creating, exploring and expressing their own unique creative personality.

What Does the Work Look Like?

We begin by presenting an element or principle of art and how to recognize its expression in a piece of work. Through storytelling, discussion and an exploration of our art objects and charts, students are presented lessons on line, shape, color, form, value, texture, and space as well as emphasis, balance or proportion, contrast, movement, rhythm, pattern, variety and harmony.

Next, we present the tools and techniques that go with each of the different media as well as those that can best express each element or principle.

Finally, we ask the child to practice with the media as we allow for experimentation and expression of individual ideas when the child is moved to create.

As in all areas of Montessori education, artwork compels the child to make a choice, be patient, discriminate visually, find solutions, and integrate thoughts into unique visual or expressive form.

Why Does the Work Matter?

Beyond our formal lessons, a Montessori environment intrinsically supports work in the arts because:

  • Art constitutes a universal human language. All peoples express themselves through art and have been doing so for most of human history. Through art, children make meaningful contact with heritage and culture throughout time and space.
  • Art provides opportunities for exactitude and expression. Handwork is a necessary complement to intellectual instruction and develops “an eye that sees, a hand that obeys, and a soul that feels” (Maria Montessori).
  • Creativity requires courage and creative activity develops the imagination, intellectual independence, interactive problem solving, flexibility, curiosity, risktaking, and originality.
  • Creative work supports internal motivation – the enjoyment, satisfaction, and challenge that derives from work itself as opposed to rewards or praise.

Dr. Montessori writes: “The ability to see reality in form, in color, in proportion, to be master of the movements of one’s own hand – that is what is necessary. Inspiration is an individual thing and, when the child possesses these formative elements, he can give expression to all he happens to have.” In Lower Elementary, artwork is often an expression of gratitude and celebration. To me, creating something original and beautiful as a gift for someone else represents the perfect intersection of the physical, social, emotional and intellectual work of the child.

In these photos, you will see last week’s examples of the creative personality at work in the form of illuminated capitals, design work, weaving, knitting, sculpture, collage and more!