The Story of John

Art- Effects and Encouragement:

Through the Story of John

 

Stacy Navis

Interdisciplinary Studies Capstone

Table of Contents

Table of Contents……………………………………………………………………………………………….. I

Definitions and Illustrations………………………………………………………………… II

Introduction to Art Therapy…………………………….………………………………….. 1

Branches of Art Therapy…………………………………………………………………….. 2

Benefits of the Arts…………………………………………………………………………….. 3

The Story of John……………………………………….……………………………………….. 4

Social/Emotional……………………………………….………………………………………… 6

Cognitive..………………………………………………….……….………………………………… 8

Fine and Gross Motor……………………………….….………………………………………. 9

Language…………………………………………….….…………………………………………… 10

My Own Drawn Conclusions……….………………..…………………………………….. 12

A Word to the Next Teacher……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 13

Bild 1: bberlin2010

 

Introduction to Art Therapy

“Art therapy predates the use of the word art to describe the visual, symbolic productions of preliterate societies.” (Ebsco)  Over the years professionals have been developing new styles, evolving techniques and applying new discoveries to children around the world through means of art therapy, in efforts to help them heal, cope and integrate them into a sable mind set. Freud and Jung both played parts in trying to determine if art healed, or if the sick created art because they were ill. In the United States Margret Naumburg and Edith Kramer both claimed to have coined the term Art Therapy, either way, they both were key players in its development.

Elinor Ulman was the first to publish a journal, the Bulletin of Art Therapy in 1961. This engaged other professionals to publish, read and trade ideas and thoughts about the subject. After some time, they held a conference, and decided to create a national association for themselves. In 1969 the National Art Therapy Association was born, and the following year their first official conference was held.

Much like Interdisciplinary Studies, art therapy incorporates the blend of fields such as “psychiatry, psychoanalysis, art history, projected techniques and education.”1  When it came to introducing art in education, it had been decades or work to get ideas and practices integrated. Margaret Naumburg applied art therapy to the Children’s School in 1914 and became the pioneer of art therapy. “Naumburg believed that children should freely express their ideas, fantasies, hopes and fears, as a means as to counter repression and promote mental health” (Ebsco)

 

Branches of Expressive Arts Therapy

The world of expressive arts therapy is vast and still progressing daily. It is a filed of multidimensional aspects. We can look to forms of physical arts; writing, drawing, painting etc. We can move beyond the tangible to drama and musical therapy; listening, signing, movement. We can branch into the connections within nature; fresh air, sounds, sights and the ability to express freely about us.

For myself, I have been an educator over the past twelve years. Through my schooling and hours in the field, I had come to the conclusion early on that art is a fundamental presence that needs to be in the lives of children. Children are never to young to be exposed to art. I have worked with infants of two months of age, to children that are thirteen and leaving he after school programs that year. I have felt that art is a necessary process that children must discover and be given encouragement to do so; To make a mess and flourish.

The information that follows will focus on four areas of development for the Whole Child through the benefits of their practice in arts. As I am no professional in the field of therapy, I can only give my insight as a teacher on what I have seen take place in my own schools within my classroom and playgrounds as first hand accounts. Over the years I have incorporated art into many areas of my curriculum, and allow free art to be accessed daily. These practices were in place to always promote and encourage expressions, development and creativity in every space my children could flourish.

 

Pinterest

 Benefits of the Arts

             When I first began to work with children, I didn’t always focus on art. Teachers, who were stuck in their old habits, when it came to allowing the children autonomy, had mentored me for the most part.   It wasn’t until I had my own infant classroom that I realized every child deserves to be exposed to art in the early stages of their development. It strengthens so many core components and allows for cross curriculum development and allows the focus to be on the process not the products.

I slowly began to see for myself benefits of art on young children. Emotions and areas of development intertwine and affect one another. A child, who through art can find self-esteem, can then begin to find so much more. They become enlightened and feel a sense of empowerment. They can take control of their emotions and find relief within a realm of comfort, protection and inspiration. Some may look at it only as art but the connections children make translate to every day life in regards to coping and finding strategies to carry with them.

For the child who is quiet and has little to no confidence, art can make them feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. “Time and time again, I have noted the catalytic effect of art in a student’s life. The shy one becomes confident—the slow-learner shows a new eagerness.   For it is by creating something unusual that he discovers his worth”(Lehman, 1969, p.46).2 I can say that I have seen this myself. Several years ago I worked with a boy who was three; Let’s just call him John.

 

dinosaurs world: Yoshiyasu Nishikawa

                                                                   The story of John

Today John would be eight. He had brown eyes and hair, loved to wear red and had a smile that would make anyone smile back. John was shy, caring and brought with him to the preschool classroom an IEP. He often drifted off into his own thoughts or books. Any book. John could be found in the science center looking at the bugs, or in blocks building towers. He was also quite quiet with the exception of singing at circle and talking about the dinosaurs he read about the night before with his mom. John did interact with the other students, however he was often asking them to give him space or to stop talking loudly. Rarely did he join for art or writing. When he did it was a glued piece of paper here and a scribble there. I always encouraged John to join art, but never made him feel he had too.

One day John asked me if he could paint at the easel. I thought nothing of it, put a new piece of paper on and watched him create. He spent about 20 minutes at the easel that day and he was the proudest I had seen him up to that day. He stepped back form his work and kept adding to it. He smiled at the end. He came over to get me to look at it. John didn’t see me beaming with pride the whole time he was working. He said he made it for his mom and wanted to take it home. While he napped, I framed it with paper and wrote on the back to his mother. I had no idea the impact that would have on John and his mom.

The next day his mother came in, in tears, and thanked me for what I had done. She had told me John did not stop talking about and looking at his framed art from the time he left school to the time he came back the next day. The simple fact that I “allowed” a child the freedom to paint, express and find confidence meant the world to not only John but his mother as well. From that day on John and I had a bond that no other teacher understood, and that was perfectly okay.

 

Social/ Emotional

             John was a quiet boy who often kept to himself. Solitary play is necessary in a child figuring out who they are, what they enjoy and what they may not enjoy. Often a child does not like an area of the room or a subject because they are lacking confidence. Confidence is not innately there, it is something that is nurtured and built up from family, educators, community and peers alike. The day John painted at the easel, his confidence grew just enough to overlap into other areas of development.

The days, weeks and months to follow, John looked for the easel as an option during free play. When the easel was full, he waited there and watched the other children create. This in turn prompted him to begin talking to the other students while they worked. He either asked about their colors, or simply, when they would be done. This may seem minute, but the leaps John took in communicating with classmates were huge. “At the same time, performing in visual and performing arts activities promotes skills and dispositions that lead to social-emotional development.” (Brouillette, 18)

Asking if they were “done” is a skill John will need to carry on with him for the rest of his life. It is practicing patience. How many adults today do not have patience? John was learning at a young age to wait patiently for his turn. When the other children would come to the easel he would sometimes become irritated and retort that his turn is next. Those burst were another portal to a lesson learned about talking with respect and letting someone else know that they need to wait just like John is. He preferred to be solo for his art while other children would collaborate at the easel. “When children work together in the art area, they learn to share, to interact with others, to be responsible for cleanup, and to put materials away.” (extensions, 1)

This back and forth of waiting and being patient helps nurture the valuable skill of turn taking. We take turns every day; waiting at stop signs, standing in the line at the bank or waiting for a drink at the bar. It is critical to understand that we cannot always be first and waiting cannot always be fast. Through wanting to paint and create again and feel that pride he felt the first day at the easel, John was practicing so much more than one may see on the surface.

 

Balancing in the Rain: Jane Yarham

Cognitive

         When John painted he was strengthening his brain. His core, concrete intellectual skills were growing with each dip, stroke and application of paint. When painting with the left hand and crossing over to the right of the paper, is a milestone in children’s development. It is a visual cue that the child is developing typically. This is called Bilateral Coordination. “Good bilateral integration/ coordination is an indicator that both sides of the brain are communicating effectively and sharing information.” (LLC, 1)

One way that I encourage children to develop a sense for which hand will be dominate, or if they will be ambidextrous, is I always have plenty of materials for them to use and manipulate. One day john began painting with two brushes, one in each hand. As he created he dipped both brushes in the same container or individually in separate ones. This was strengthening his eye-hand coordination. By focusing on two holes, narrowing in and coming back out, he was practicing tasks he was unaware of. The two brushes led to circles being created at the same time, and brushes crossing paths, blended colors and creating vibrant patterns on his canvas.

“In The Brain and Learning (2008), Eisner states that the arts provide children with experience, meaning, and development of thought.“ (Baker, 2) This held true the first time John painted. He gained a new experience, found meaning in his work, felt pride, and it provoked thought when he asked me if I liked his art. Just like play, art and incorporating connections is spontaneous. “This sense of the unknown provides children with opportunities to develop flexibility in their thinking and decision making, which is a vital life skill.” (Drew & Nell, 2)

 

Fine Motor Activities: Nicole

Fine and Gross Motor 

Ever wonder what the reason is behind a young child throwing a ball in wonky directions…behind them, to the left of their target or just simply at the ground? The body develops in a particular format and muscles are strengthened and refined first through gross motor functions and then fine motor. “Acquiring motor skills is just one part of children’s development. Mastering both fine and gross motor skills are important for children’s growth and independence. Having good motor control helps children explore the world around them and also helps with their cognitive development.” (Pathways, 1)

After their gross (large) muscles develop such as their arms for lifting, their legs for squatting and their torsos for bending, they can begin to improve their fine (small) muscles. Fine motor skills include pinching, picking, and gripping. Now here is where we get to the art, Many motions involved with the art process, such as holding a brush or making scribbles with a crayons and pencils, are essential to the growth of fine motor skills.  I unfortunately never got the opportunity to see John write his name, however I did see his artist tool repertoire expand.

John began to use the crayons and colored pencils. After a few months of creating art in his own space at the easel, he joined us at the table for the length of the art activities. Other classmates sat with him and they chatted amongst themselves. John would smile at them and giggle every so often. He did enjoy socializing it was just in moderation. While creating a collage, John began using the glue stick on his paper. Typically he would apply mix media pieces and at naptime I would adhere them to his paper for him, so he could keep what he created. Now he was doing it own his own.

 

Language

             There is a famous saying in the Early Education world; Art is a process, not a product. This idea and method of instilling core values, concepts and skills is complex. A child could create a painting and at the end crumple it up, smear black across it or throw it away. The end results can bring about feelings of accomplishment yes, but the process they went through to make the final decision of the art, is powerful and important. “Sometimes when children are asked to focus on an end result, or to finish something, it can limit the type of learning that can take place. Through self-expression and creativity, children’s skills will develop naturally.” (Penn, 1)

I had mentioned earlier that when John was finished, he asked for my opinion, this was a great leap in the realm of language development. This was self-initiated. His art gave him the feeling that he could open up and share with an adult in his life. I told him I liked how he used blue, and he pointed to the blue. I told John how I loved the circles he made, he counted out two. Right there was a back and forth conversation (social), color and shape identification (mathematics), and more eye-hand coordination (cognitive) when pointing to the details in his work.

With language you can introduce and reinforce many, many terms through art. When the brush is applied softer, or harder different strokes appear; Some strokes are light while others are dark. When paint drips down the easel, gravity and science can be tied in, creating lessons and connections in real time and holding true meaning when it’s a true teachable moment.  One technique I like to include in children’s art is dictation of their thoughts and work. It is important to capture the true essence of what they created in that moment. Most often, children know and remember what they have created. When they tell me “this is a moose for my mom” I make sure to include that on their piece for everyone to know the story of the artwork. The child then also has a written representation of their masterpiece. Their stories come to life.

 

Painting by mouth: oddharmonic

My Own Drawn Conclusion

John brought his story to life at that easel, and began to express himself from that day forward. All of his growth could have just been due to his intrinsic milestone timeline. Maybe he could have been given encouragement to broaden his discoveries. Perhaps he found the confidence to try something new. Both are possibilities because of the art-enriched environment John was exposed to.

I have no data, test scores, or references, to say that that was what brought John’s self expression out, but I do know it made a difference in how he was in class. From that day on he was more expressive, inquisitive, social and present than ever before. Over time he displayed budding traits of a young boy who was becoming more confidant, assertive, expressive and kind. All along the way I had the privilege of watching John grow, discover and find independence with more ease.

 

A Word to the next Teacher 

Research has indicated these positive impacts to be true for children. They have been studied, practice and tried true. Art is an enhancer to self-esteem, which in turn spirals out into many facets of learning, development and life.   My motto as a teacher is simply, ENCOURAGE. Encourage children in everything they do. Lend them a hand, an ear or a palette filled with more paint than they can use. Let children express themselves through art to find their voices later on. Give them the tools to succeed and an outlet to seek when they need to cope, relax, escape for clarity, safety or just because.

Always encourage and always remember…

 

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso

Works Cited

 My Ebsco host ones won’t find the site again…here are the links:

 1. http://web.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.plymouth.edu/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/ZTAwMHhuYV9fNDUyNjc0X19BTg2?sid=b6ce6479-30b2-451d-bfb8-87dce3bd3c35@sessionmgr4010&vid=0&format=EB&rid=1

2.

http://web.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.plymouth.edu/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/ZTAwMHhuYV9fMTMxOTQxX19BTg2?sid=81b6b4c5-74dd-4c84-8c1e-4a9b673199d5@sessionmgr4007&vid=0&format=EB&rid=1   page 312

3. “What Is Bilateral Coordination and Why Is It Important?” Child’s Play Therapy Center. Child’s Play Therapy Center, LLC., 06 Aug. 2014. Web. 3 May 2017.

4. Baker, Dawn. “Art Integration and Cognitive Development.” Journal for Learning through the Arts 9.1 (2013): 2. Print.

5.  “Art – An Opportunity to Develop Children’s Skills.” Better Kid Care (Penn State Extension). Pen Sate College of Agricultural Sciences, 06 Feb. 2014. Web. 3 May 2017.

6.  Nell, Marcia L., and Walter F. Drew. “Five Essentials to Meaningful Play.” Five Essentials to Meaningful Play | NAEYC For Families. NAEYC, n.d. Web. 3 May 2017.

7. “Motor Skills Milestones | Child Development.” Pathways. Pathways, 2017. Web. 3 May 2017.

8.  Eubanks, Paula. Art and Language Development. N.p.: Sperry Corporation, n.d. Print

9. “Creative Art Helps Children Develop across Many Domains.” EXtension. EXtension, 2015. Web. 12 May 2017.

10. Brouillette, Liane. “How the Arts Help Children to Create Healthy Social Scripts: Exploring the Perceptions of Elementary Teachers.” ARTS EDUCATION POLICY REVIEW 111 (2010): 16-24. Print.

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