How Can Student Art Foster Community?
Art is an area which allows students to express themselves freely and creatively. It is hands-on and allows students to think positively, create hands-on, concrete products, obtain rewards, and collaborate. Through different mediums and strategies, students are given ample opportunities to demonstrate different skills. Thus, students can grow in confidence and will think more positively about themselves and their own learning. Art is meaningful for students because it allows them to connect new knowledge to personal experiences and express what they have learned to others. Through conversing with classmates and even their teachers, they begin to build a strong sense of community.
Community can be fostered when positive attitudes and behaviors are condoned. With a stronger focus on positivity and doing that right thing to succeed, the frequency of discipline issues declines, and teachers can also more closely meet the needs of each learner. The arts category in general can help students improve and teaches them many different skills for success. Some skills students may learn include repetitive practice to improve something, persistence, and patience. Persistence and patience go hand in hand. These skills contribute to student growth academically, socially, and emotionally. Through learning an artistic discipline, students really learn about themselves as people, which in turn helps to develop character. This is very impactful for students, even at early ages.
Community can be fostered when teamwork is involved in art. Together, students determine and achieve common goals. This applies not only to artwork itself, but more of “the arts” broad category. “For instance, in developing a theatrical production, group performance, or any type of collaborative artistic endeavor, students practice the fine art of teamwork. As they work together, they learn to understand differences and diversity and realize the ways that teamwork contributes to a great performance. By also teaching students how to live and work together, the arts contribute to making schools safer and more peaceful learning environments” overall (Liberty Classical Academy). In the arts, students learn to establish and communicate their intentions, receive offer constructive criticism, and listen actively to others’ ideas. Active listening is a very important part of learning, bonding, and coming together.
Finally, community can be fostered by learning and developing leadership skills. Some of these may include decision-making, strategy building, planning, or reflection. Some of these skills are driven through the connections students can make and the confidence they have gained. They can feel more comfortable with who they are and begin to feel the confidence move towards their ability to affect the world around them in meaningful ways. They can share these ways with their classmates and grow together from and with one another in their community.
Ways to Build an Online Community: How Can an Educator Approach This?
The words online and community do not seem to go together and can appear to be somewhat daunting to educators. However, in 2020, the pandemic presented us with quite an unforeseen challenge that everyone in the world was affected by. As a result, educators moved to the online learning model. They were basically forced with ways to engage their students and still provide a foundational base of a classroom community.
One way to build a community is to approach it from an “all-school” level and not just by individual classes. The more people you can bring together, the more likely it is that there could be connections. A few ways to promote positivity and connect are to organize meetings, whether they are gatherings with everyone or brief morning meetings. Students can share about their personal lives and listen to others. This may also bring about feelings of empathy. Furthermore, if the teacher also participates, it shows that they are passionate and are taking the initiative to be a part of the group.
Another approach to build community is to encourage students to create their own artwork with a student-centered approach or to upload video clips they have created. This allows them to express themselves freely and creatively. They would also be able to identify similarities and differences among classmates to build a sense of community of shared interests.
Finally, an approach to build community is to create a project on a school wide level to be presented to classmates and even outside people of the community. One example would be to have students think of traits and attributes that represent them. Then, they would paint a rock to show what they have thought about. This project would really depict students as individuals, but then show everyone’s masterpiece together as one big community of learners. When artwork creates meaning for students and makes their work matter to them, they get more motivated, and this can carry on to other subject areas.
In conclusion, online learning is never the easiest to tackle, but there are many ways teachers can encourage community among students through the arts. Since it is an “outside the box” area and not part of the core area subjects, students can feel more at ease with their work and gain all the skills necessary to be lifelong learners and productive members of society.