Why Primary School Teachers Should Encourage Art [Interview]

What’s the best way to encourage children’s artistic creativity?

The Gruffalo
A giant Gruffalo, part of an ensemble, created by one class who were hosting an active-thinking themed assembly. Greatness can be achieved when teachers endorse creativity within primary schools.

Our kids spend considerable time at school, so we should definitely encourage our educators to love art. In primary schools, particularly those without a specialist art teacher, it’s up to individual teachers to incorporate art into their lessons. In some cases, teachers aren’t confident with their own abilities and they don’t teach as much art as they probably should.

This week I chatted with Suzi, a tertiary educator, who aims to promote the joy of art within her class of aspiring primary school teachers. Suzi discovered her passion for art from an early age.  A paint splattering activity, using stencils and a toothbrush, at kindergarten inspired awe:

“I remember thinking it was magical! I was hooked.”

It’s this wonder she’d love to foster in older kids whose sense of creativity tends to diminish over time. Suzi believes children are dismayed when:

“People ask questions that don’t relate to a child’s artwork. Is that a house? Is that a train? Trying to work out what it is, rather than – I love your use of colour or those shapes are amazing. Any positive comments are usually given to figures that people recognise, not to those images that are different.”

When teaching her students Suzi emphasises the value of exploration and process rather than the end product. It’s their role as the teacher:

“To ask their kids leading questions to make them think about the decisions they’re making. Why did you choose that colour, how does it make you feel? What can it represent? Kids have amazing ideas and it’s our job to draw them out.”

Most of Suzi’s students haven’t had any art training beyond Year 7. The following work highlights their playful exploration of colour theory.

Colour Theory
Teachers experiment with paint and colour choices while exploring colour theory.


Suzi urges her students not to fear art.

“I want them to see art as an adjunct to the whole curriculum. Last week we talked about 3D. Some kids find it difficult to explain it in writing but they might be able to express their ideas really well if they get to make something with their hands. The physicality of just working can help their brain bring it all together.”

Most of the students Suzi teaches have a major in another subject such as Maths, Physical Education, English or Geography. She says:

“We talk about how they would incorporate their specialist subject into a particular project. Next week we’re looking at printmaking and how it’s been so integral to English and language and the development of books. I’ll show them lots of different printing styles and we’ll come up with ways they could incorporate it into their teaching.”

2018-05-21 10.09.03
Teachers experiment with printmaking.

This week they looked at sculpture and Suzi got her class to work with paper as it’s a cheap, easy and clean way to bring art into schools. The students worked in groups:

“We talked about having no fear – it’s just paper! To begin with they didn’t know what to do and just sat there. Then I got them to hold a piece of paper and just do something with it while they were talking. As soon as they held the paper some of them started folding, cutting – everyone brought their own way. And from there all their ideas came. In the end, I could see they thought their solutions were far more creative than they’d initially anticipated.”

Paper Creations
Fun paper creations

This exercise demonstrated to her class how important it is to give their own students the freedom and space to run with an idea no matter how silly it may seem in the beginning.

“The most important thing is to let them be brave. To make mistakes and to have those happy accidents that can lead somewhere else.” Of equal importance was the fun and joy this activity created, “We laughed a lot!”

Engagement, laughter, joy and learning; who wouldn’t want that from an education system?


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