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FOr an elementary methods class i have to prepare and teach a three lesson
unti on one artist. the emphasis of the project is to get to respond to
and talk about art. i have decided to focus on aesthetic issues. does
anyone have any ideas or suggestions?
This is a re-post from last February that I saved because I thought it had
quite a bit of excellent information. It is a bit long; my apologies.
Beginning of re-post:
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 1997 22:43:45 -0800
Subject: Reflections on Art
I am enclosing a short document for those of you who expressed an interest in
hearing more about my upcoming Aesthetics class for grades 5-7. This
document just briefly mentions some of the concepts I will begin with and
some of the goals I hope to accomplish. The class meets for 1 1/2 hours for
ten days. The last three years, I've taught an introduction to philosophy
for 3-4 graders but this will be the first summer I will entirely focus on
aesthetics. I've always used art as a teaching tool with these children.
Reflections On Art
Course Goals for Young Scholars
Research: Aesthetics for Children
This summer in my Aesthetics for Children class, the children will be
introduced to concepts important to the study of aesthetics as well as an
introduction to philosophy itself. The ten day class session will begin with
an easy introduction to some of the key words. Children will take some notes
but not many. Some of these vocabulary words are listed below and will be
added as the research and lesson plans progress. The following terms will
be introduced the first day because of their importance.
In the ten day session, children will begin to distinquish what is meant
object (art piece)
reflection (thinking, contemplating)
It will be explained that reflection is a mental act, the observer is doing
something. This is extremely important. Aesthetics is really about the
subject/observer not the object itself. It's about our response, our
reflection on the art work. This is what we mean when we talk about the
aesthetic experience. Children can understand this because they have to
learn what verbs are in English class. So I ALWAYS explain that
philosophizing is a VERB. It is something we do. I tell the kids that
philosophy is one subject that they can never learn by just reading about it.
It is an activity. Aesthetic inquiry is no different. Aestheticians
philosophize about art and beauty and more importantly our response. This
idea may be new to the children. They've always learned about art by looking
at things and making things. They may seldom be told that their response is
equally important. So the classroom activities will direct the children
to start thinking about their response to art. The ideas, discussions and
vocabulary words are based on
Kant's Critique of Judgment and Marcia Eaton's Aesthetics and the Good Life
as well as many other resources regarding Aesthetics.
Some Essential Elements to an Aesthetic
1. The subject/observer reflects on something in or about the
art piece (a property of the artwork.)
2. The response is a positive response. We value something
about the piece.
3. Typically we want to share our response with friends or we
want to invite others to "see it" too.
There are certainly more ideas involved in the aesthetic experience
but when working with children, I try to keep the new ideas to a minimum.
Three concepts are plenty for now. The third item is especially important
because it touches on one of Kant's criteria for an aesthetic judgment which
is his idea of universal subjectivity. This (for Kant) distinguishes the
aesthetic from individual taste which is NEVER to be confused. For
children, I always shoot for the actual philsophical concepts and I make
sure that I am leading the children on a track that will later on "ring a
bell" and register a memory like, "Oh yeah, I remember talking about that
before." You see, children need to begin to build a foundation of inquiry
and creative/critical thinking and they can do that because they understand
some of these basic ideas. Children can begin to understand the basic
building blocks or thinking tools that formulate the larger abstract
concepts which is thrown at them when they get to college usually with NO
PRIOR preparation. This can be overwhelming and devasting to an eighteen
year old student. My main goal is for children to experience this idea of
philsophizing, engaging in dialogue, and becoming aware of their own
thoughts. Children become so excited when we take a sincere interest in
their thoughts. I've seen this happen with my 3-4th grade philosophy
students. They love coming to class. One counselor even told me a child
couldn't wait for lunch to be over so they could come to philosophy class.
(Believe me, that was a great compliment)
Now you may ask, "Why bother to analyze our responses and why do
philosophers pick everything to death? Can't we just enjoy the art?" I can
even hear you saying this out loud! Why think about our responses at all?
Because it means that we value something. It exercises our power to make
value judgments. (It is possible that Aesthetical inquiry is the mental
prerequisite to ethical thinking. And isn't this a safe way to introduce
value theory to public school children!) It is also important because it
sharpens our observation and evaluation skills. When we make judgments, we
are drawing conclusions and letting our thoughts make lots of connections. >>
End of re-post...