Today, children have access to a number of forms of education and multiple opportunities to expand their learning practices and knowledge. Arts education is used to introduce students to great music, paintings, and dance and help them take the first steps in comprehending these fields (Klass, 2019). It is a perfect source of knowledge, joy, and cooperation between students and their educators. Arts education enhances pedagogical understandings, practice, and the evaluation of teacher-world-views (Naughton & Lines, 2009). However, in some facilities, the role of arts education is poorly recognized and underestimated.
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Therefore, many investigations are developed to prove the worth of this form of education and its potential contributions to the social, economic, and academic development of communities (Ruebain, 2019). I also believe that arts education is the field to which public attention has to be paid as it is a chance for children to discover their talents and for adults to support national growth. In this project, I would like to present my personal position statement on arts education and demonstrate its impact on infants, toddlers, and young children through the prism of my beliefs, values, and practical experiences.
Purpose of Arts Education
To understand the impact of arts education on infants, toddlers, and young children, it is necessary to clarify its essence and integral components. According to Grierson (2011), art is a “practice with the potential to initiate a reverberating ground between social ideas and action, imagination and experience, referencing present to possible futures, coexisting histories, lineages, and assumptions (p. 338). It is hard to choose one form of art and make sure it depicts the nature of all art types in education. In the context of research and practice, arts include drama, dance, music, literature, storytelling, and visual arts (Resta, 2017).
Creativity turns out to be a significant aspect of a child’s development, promoting growth in such sectors as fashion, technologies, dance, visual culture, performance, and Internet technologies (Grierson, 2011). In early childhood education (ECE) settings, it is believed that every child has his or her unique journey to demonstrate competence and confidence in learning and communicating (Ministry of Education, 2017). My personal position is closely related to the principles of Te Whāriki, depending on the age of a person and his or her abilities and desire to join the art journey.
Each child is able to learn new material in a specific way, depending on the already developed qualities and obtained knowledge. However, the difference in age makes teachers introduce various approaches and time periods for their curriculums. In addition, nowadays, the learning and development of a child depend on his or her cultural background and parents’ expectations. The representatives of the Ministry of Education (2017) divide children into three groups: infants (from birth to 18 months), toddlers (from one year to three years), and young children (from 2.5 years to school entry).
Each group has its characteristics and specific guidelines to be followed. Arts education can be a complex field for students of such a young age, but it is a great opportunity for these members of society to understand their social regulations and other critical basics for further development.
The purpose of arts education for infants depends on their cognitive and physical growth. At this age, infants demonstrate rapid development and a close connection to their parents’ or other caregivers’ abilities. Infants’ education is based on trust and cooperation with adults (Ministry of Education, 2017). Te Whāriki underlines the necessity for children to use verbal and nonverbal strategies and express their experiences and understandings of the people and events around them. The role of visual arts is great in these practices as it is one of the ways to hear and see the children’s and parents’ voices (Fuemana-Foa’l, Pohio, & Terreni, 2009).
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Although infants cannot talk, understand the worth of art, and compare different works, their communication and cooperation with the environment play a serious role. The purpose of arts education is to formulate emotions and learn cultural and social basics. At this period, education should be based on gestures, different cues, and reactions. Parents are able to develop special associations between music, dance, pictures, human emotions, and behaviors.
My personal position regarding the support of arts education in infants is rather simple and includes some principles of Te Whāriki. Firstly, I believe that attention to such forms of art as dance, music, and visual arts cannot be ignored at this age. Infants should develop their emotions, observe the gestures and actions of adults, and try to apply their small but significant investigations in practice. In addition to a portion of knowledge and experiences, it is also necessary to provide infants with an opportunity to discover their limits and allow them to take some steps within the already created safe and calm environment (like regulate volume, turn on/off the light, or turn over pages).
Compared to infants, toddlers are introduced as more autonomous learners with a number of new abilities and skills. These students are usually guided by their desires to explore the world, increase their independence, and gain control of different subjects (Ministry of Education, 2017; Plows, 2014). Therefore, to achieve positive results in ECE, it is recommended to do what children like to do and enjoy the process. Sometimes, children are in need of additional motivation and support. In some families, children like to become independent as soon as possible and demonstrate what they can do. In my personal statement about the role of arts education, I want to introduce the approach when children study what they like and find interesting, but parents and educators must offer all the possible options for a child’s choice.
The modern world of information technologies and the Internet provides people with access to different sources, places, and cultures. It means that children may begin their education in several fields from several perspectives. Chen-Hafteck (2007) shared the observations regarding the attitudes to children towards music and discovered that “no matter where the children were and what the circumstances were, their love of music was abundantly evident” (p. 141). Other methods of education include the materials where self-expression is possible, like pictures, audio recordings, books, and exhibitions (Parnell, 2012).
Arts education may provoke some simple evaluations and opinions of children towards what they see, feel, and want to experience. Self-study is the approach to discover the things that remain unnoticed for some period (Gibbs, 2005). Compared to other fields of education, art is not always difficult to comprehend and develop personal interpretations and knowledge. Therefore, at the age between one and three years, parents, as well as ECE teachers, can use arts to prepare children for making their first learning journeys and not to be confused with new terms, situations, and tasks.
Considerable changes and new expectations are set in terms of education that is offered to young children. The Ministry of Education (2017) defined that young children usually have increased capacities for languages and considering other points of view. Within a short period, many children become involved in storytelling, using their experiences in reading the stories of other people (Colbert, 2006). Then, they listen to each other and demonstrate their voices in telling their own stories and sharing different experiences. The task of a teacher, a parent, or a caregiver is not to miss the moment and support the child in his or her intention to join arts education.
Another tool for young children to communicate and understand the world is a part of visual arts education. Children’s drawings deserve much attention and the way of how they or expert interpret their project, as well as the projects of other people. The interplay of visual and verbal signs helps young children to recognize their weaknesses and use their strengths to solve problems and continue developing (Lind, 2005; Terreni, 2010). I also support the idea of Knight (2009) to promote the activity of drawing together when the child and adult “enter chaos via an unknowable, unpredictable event” (p. 16).
There is a line between adults’ participation in children’s artistic development and inappropriate influences adults have on their children (Richards, 2007). Therefore, it is necessary for an educator to promote child-parent cooperation from the point of view of support and motivation but not for judgments and critics only (Richards, 2009). Children may be not or poorly aware of their cultural roots, traditions, and heritage, and drawing is a good activity to share this information for further growth in arts education and socialization.
Personal Beliefs and Values about Arts Learning
Taking into consideration the possible contributions of arts education to a child’s development, it is high time to develop personal statements and consider personal values and beliefs to prove the worth of arts in a child’s life. Many parents may believe that early childhood is not an appropriate period to introduce the world of art to the child. There could be other significant aspects of growth to which attention should be paid. However, if there is an opportunity for a parent or another caregiver to begin with, the journey as early as possible, this chance must not be neglected.
Arts education is not only an analysis of someone’s projects and achievements. It also includes a number of interesting activities for children and their parents when such learning outcomes of Te Whāriki like knowledge, skills, and attitudes are achieved. Arts like dance, music, drama, storytelling, or visual arts result in the wellbeing of a child, keeping themselves caring and safe and expressing their feelings and needs in a proper way (Ministry of Education, 2017).
Another outcome is based on the promotion of belonging in terms of which connections between people and cultures and understanding of how the things around work are regarded. Finally, the contribution is an outcome for children involved in ECE with the possibility to treat each other fairly and recognize each other’s needs (Ministry of Education, 2017). The purpose of arts education is to provide children with an opportunity to talk and be heard, to ask and get answers, to find out something new, and share personal experiences.
There are many reasons for supporting the promotion of arts in education. As well as many researchers like Chen-Hafteck (2007) or Grierson (2011), I think that any art-making journey is a crucial step in a child’s development. When children (regardless of their age) are asked to draw a picture, they have to develop their motor and visual skills or imagination. Simultaneously, contributions to language development and decision-making cannot be ignored because these abilities undergo certain changes even if education is in the form of a game or a competition. Finally, I strongly believe in the possibility of increasing cultural awareness and make children familiar with the family’s traditions and customs.
Some parents fail to introduce their heritage to their children in a proper way or are misguided by modern information technologies and social media. Therefore, it is credible and effective to address old-fashioned techniques and use the best options for teaching (Colbert, 2006). The examples of other people like those found on pictures, painting, and photographs, storytelling like those read in someone’s books or blogs, or dancing experiences like those demonstrated on TV shows can say a lot.
My beliefs and values about learning and teaching arts have several grounds and explanations. From my childhood, I was educated about the importance to respect for adults and family traditions in the way my ancestors did it. Sometimes, it was complicated to understand why I was obliged to follow certain norms and rules.
Such problems were rooted in the lack of ECE in my family. Therefore, I want to believe that more children could be exposed to different professional forms of education, make drawings, retell stories, and dance to be properly introduced to the world of modern culture. As soon as children learn the basics, they will be able to make their own contributions to the world of art and the development of their nations. Although at the age of 3-5 years, it is early to say about evident improvements and success, attempts have to be made, and certain opportunities must be provided.
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I plan to support children and develop their skills by means of visual arts and dances. I think that despite the intentions of parents to provide children with the best care and create the most appropriate environments, they sometimes fail to listen to them because of their age or experience differences. Therefore, ECE has to be based on creativity and cooperation between educators and children where both parties have voices, opinions, and information to share (Fuemana-Foa’l et al., 2009). Attention to each student’s background and cultural roots is another requirement that cannot be neglected in arts education. It is a chance for a teacher to recognize the most interesting and important areas of study for a child.
Relation to Practice
My example of an art-making journey in a visual mode proves the benefits of visual arts education, as well as dance, for children of different ages. One of the first steps in my practice was the creation of a rangoli of Lord Ganesha. I used special flour to follow the traditions and meet the requirement of its creation – to choose creative materials. My goal was to connect art and culture in my work and demonstrate to other people how the spirit of the Indian community can be transformed into a foreign country. The same way has to be applied to arts education for toddlers and young children.
On the one hand, they see what distinguishes the Indian culture from other nations. On the other hand, they will try to demonstrate their skills and creativity, considering social, art, and academic issues. Chhabra (2017) explained that Lord Ganesha plays an important role in Indian life as it symbolizes a good start and promoted such virtues as responsibility, love for parents, and forgiveness. My intention was to show how visual arts may introduce a new culture to the country.
At the same time, arts education has to be developed according to a special format and standards. In this case, my practical experience could help children to understand how a plan of work needs to be developed (the creation of a rangoli grid) and what backgrounds cannot be ignored (ceremonial worship of Ganesha in the temple). At the final stage of the creation of Ganesha rangoli, an understanding of the vision of the Te Whāriki vision and the achievement of the learning outcomes by the Ministry of Education (2017) are promoted. As a student, a child expresses his or her feelings towards the work done, experiences satisfaction, and makes a connection between art and culture.
I followed the steps defined by Richards (2009), including the teacher’s recognition of students’ needs and cultural preferences, demonstration of how the work has to be done, and attention to students’ emotions. Visual arts education through the prism of rangoli’s creation is a unique opportunity to underline the worth of creativity, a personal approach, and interpretation of the material offered.
Another significant aspect of my practice included dance, as one of the forms of arts for learning. When I asked children or their parents about the distinctive features of Indian culture, the majority of answered included the beauty of Indian dance and songs. During the last several years, people consider dance as one of the most common languages for people from different countries for communication (Crompton, 2019). I agree with such an opinion, and that is why I choose dance as my second practical step. Firstly, I chanted to receive a blessing for my beginnings, and then, I danced to express my happiness and satisfaction with the results achieved.
The same methods of art education are appropriate for young children, toddlers, and infants. Each of these three groups of students can use their cognitive and motor skills to participate in both practices. Infants enjoy the sounds of music, and older children may join dancing activities. As well as the creation of rangoli, Indian songs and dances depict the nature of this country and help children stay creative and express themselves in the most convenient ways.
In the ECE field, a teacher must raise the child’s interest in doing in-class activities. The representatives of the Ministry of Education (2017) discovered that music, dance, and songs could amuse and delight children, so they study arts to understand better different cultural occasions. As a result, children learn what it means to be a part of a specific culture, how to follow traditions, and what skills should be developed. Every culture has its traditional songs and dances, and children use their whole bodies and minds to grasp the core of Indian culture (Chen-Hafteck, 2007). I want to find enough time and space for students who choose ECE to discover the beauty of cultural distinctions while dancing and singing.
The last but never least aspect of ECE with attention to visual arts and dance is the necessity to draw the line between education and entertainment. In many cases, parents and children believe that arts education is not as serious as mathematics or natural sciences. On the contrary, this field can be even more complicated because children, as well as a teacher, must understand when it is the time to dance and why it is important to study dance basics first.
I defined my practice as successful due to my ability to combine theoretical material with personal interpretations to introduce a final product in the form of a rangoli and informative performance. It is hard for children to focus on education only, but their entertainment activities should not prevent their learning process. I want to pay special attention to the division of time and give clear explanations of each aspect in the ECE setting.
In total, this discussion and my practical experience in Indian arts help me to define priorities and develop a common understanding of early childhood education in modern society. There are many ways of how art may influence child development, including the possibility to determine their communication skills, cognitive abilities, critical thinking, and decision-making. Learning outcomes depend on the qualities of an art educator and the parents of a child.
Te Whāriki’s tactics show how visual arts, dance, music, and other forms of arts contribute to the child’s penetration into this world. It is not enough for a teacher to impose some new knowledge and requirements on students but to make sure that freedom, opportunities, and choices are always available to them. Pedagogy is a constantly changing field, and my goal is to continue studying to become a good teacher for future generations and show children how interesting and unpredictable the connection among arts, education, entertainment, and personal interpretations can be.
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