Incorporating art in the classroom

Sydney Rudolf Steiner College

Incorporating art in the classroom – an everyday expectation but are you running out of ideas?

In theory, teachers across Australia know that art education should be an integral part of childrens’ learning. Certainly, in Rudolf Steiner schools there is a strong expectation that childrens’ art making, and creativity will be central to their meaning-making. If you’ve ever worked in a Steiner school or visited a Steiner school, you’ll know the classrooms and childrens’ books are filled with art in various mediums including watercolour, crayon, pencil. Colour and form swirl around the visitor like a kaleidoscope of beauty.

However, for teachers both in the Steiner system and mainstream, sustaining childrens’ daily art making has its challenges. Although teachers know they ought to extend childrens’ artistic abilities, a common issue is that beyond the infant years, inspiration and confidence teaching art can diminish. Many believe they lack the training and skills to extend childrens’ creativity beyond year 1 or 2.

Steiner art educator, Gill William-Smith says this common. “Teachers know they have to do a certain amount of creative art with their classes. But it’s often the elephant in the room because beyond a certain elementary level they know nothing about it”.

For Steiner teachers an additional complexity is navigating the theoretical underpinning of Steiner art education which is inspired by Steiner’s extensive study of the German writer, statesman, scientist and artist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Goethe wrote prolifically on art, producing at least 2000 pages of written manuscripts (as well as on many other subjects). Goethe’s theories including the Theory of Colours (1810) are very important in Steiner education. However, distilling the ‘how-to’ practical application of Goethe’s ‘Theory of Colours’ and applying it masterfully within the quotidian day-to-day of classroom management and curriculum planning can be challenging!

For non-Steiner teachers there’s the difficulty of providing art materials and creative space within the structured expectations of curriculum delivery. It’s no surprise that teachers often struggle beyond  to find the time to learn about art materials and how they work, yet along extend art making into the heart of a lesson plan”.

Gill’s new NESA accredited 8 hour course provides training in Watercolour Painting, Form Drawing, Colour Drawing and Blackboard Drawing. Gill’s training emphasises building the confidence of teachers to develop their own art-rich lessons. By enhancing teachers’ creative skills, she helps them develop expertise and confidence in their capacity to teach art. “I like to take teachers on a journey of fascination. Using mixed media and a variety of affordable art materials I support teachers to make aesthetically beautiful and pleasing works’.

So, do you need to be an artist to teach children art? “Definitely not!”, she says. “All a teacher needs is a treasure trove of ideas and some skill, but you don’t need to be an artist!”. With her years of teaching art to draw upon, Gill is a powerhouse of ideas which she is eager to share. Participants can expect to complete her workshops and have a wealth of easy to follow techniques, ideas and inspirations to take back into the class.

And what about explaining Goethean colour theory? Can Gill help? Gill says, “I do this gently! I disentangle the esoteric and put Goethe’s ideas into simple terms. We talk about the mood differnt colours invoke, how particular colours influence a child, and how to implement Goethe both indirectly and directly. Step by step we go.”

Shifting art making from the periphery of school experience into the core is the focus of Sydney Rudolf Steiner College’s art training workshops. Supporting teachers to undertake a ‘…journey of fascination’ with art making and building teacher confidence and skills to take the journey back into the everyday is our goal.

Thank you Gill for this wonderful interview!

Emilia – College Education Coordinator

Recently, Sydney Rudolf Steiner College Education Co-ordinator Emilia Salgado spoke with artist and College art tutor Gill William-Smith about her new NESA course, Art in the Steiner Curriculum which is currently a core creative module in the course Emilia runs, Foundations in Rudolf Steiner Education. Emilia and Gill go back a long way; in fact Gill was Emilia’s high school art teacher when she went to Glenaeon in the 1980s!  

If you would like to attend Gill William-Smith’s fantastic 8 hour NESA course, Art in the Steiner Curriculum, you can chose to attend her course at the Foundations in Rudolf Steiner Education Seminar in April 2020. Renewed this year, this one year, part time course run by distance includes 32 hours of NESA credit (for proficient teachers). This course is a must-do for teachers new to Steiner Education or experienced Steiner teachers that want to fulfill their NESA accreditation requirements while training in the Steiner framework.

Or contact the College to organise Gill William-Smith to attend your next PD day and provide your teachers with an experiential overview of blackboard drawing, colour drawing, form drawing and watercolour technique.

Gill William-Smith is an experienced Steiner art teacher. Currently, Gill is the School Staff Development Coordinator at Noosa Pengari Steiner School.

All images are by Gill William-Smith.

For more information on this wonderful NESA course or to find out about the Sydney Rudolf Steiner course, Foundations in Rudolf Steiner Education, please email [email protected]