Art is the nexus of all things.
Art is what makes us human.
This morning my 6th graders were introduced to Ancient Greek art and architecture. In this one lesson, we learned so much! We traveled in time, stopping to discuss why our timelines say BCE and CE instead of BC and AD. We noted how artistic time periods and cultures overlap and influence each other. We located Greece on the globe noting its proximity to Italy (which they know so well after years of Italian class). We observed and drew a diagram of an Ancient Greek temple, labeling stylobate, columns, entablature, and pediment for some architectural vocabulary and to note their symmetry and engineering purpose. We looked at the Parthenon and figured out why it looks so broken down now (through years of weathering, tectonic activity, and pillaging as other cultures moved across the Greek landscape over 2500 years). We recalled other buildings in our city of Philadelphia and around our nation that look like the Parthenon and discussed how the Greeks invented democracy and how we emulate that spirit through our civic architecture. We drew, compared and contrasted changing styles of columns through Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian periods and talked some more about how they were constructed like strung beads to allow for flexibility (good engineering for an earthquake prone place). We looked at and drew an amphora and figured out that no, the Greeks didn't invent basketball, but they did throw a discus in the original Olympic games. Finally students vied for their assignment of an ancient Greek god or goddess to research based on their interest- "Who is interested in music and the sun? ME! ME!- you'll research Apollo" and "Who is interested in love and beauty? ME! ME! -then you'll research Aphrodite" and 20 more kids got their own myth down the list.
It was beautiful.
And in one hour we learned history, geography, vocabulary, math, earth science, civics, athletics, critical thinking, and....... art. And even managed to connect the 2500 year old artifacts to my students' everyday experiences and created an opportunity for choice.
In one hour.
Possibly when they went home this afternoon, their parents asked "What did you do at school today?". I'm sure many of them said.... "NOTHING" (because that's what teenagers say). But really our kids do so much all day long! And teachers do even more to plan and prepare and engage and manage and inspire and encourage and correct. I have moments in my day when I wish SOMEONE could see all of these amazing things we teachers and students do together. Of course, by SOMEONE I mean our society, and leaders, and all the people who make decisions that can make it easier or harder to do what we do in the classroom every day.
It's not just art.