An Artistic Retrospective
By Jimmy Vo, Intern at Art in Action
Think back to a time when you hesitated and felt the rapid rush of adrenaline.
There are many moments in my life where nervous excitement rushes throughout my body. One moment in particular, however, was unlike any other. It was a quiet, cloudy morning as I walked towards the entrance. Taking a long deep breath, I mustered up the courage and stepped through the gates. For a brief moment, this was my chance to be a kid again.
It was like walking through a fractal in time: swings idly swaying with the wind; mountains of sand quietly sitting in the sandbox; drawings of chalk neatly sprinkling the pavement. Decades have passed since I walked into preschool and many thoughts raced around inside my head:
What has changed? How do kids learn now? Was there anything the same?
My mind quickly calmed as I met the Garfield Community School teachers and Sarah, a graduate of San Jose State University. Her research, titled Effects of Preschool Arts Curriculum on Social and Emotional Competence, had caught my interest and Sarah had invited me to examine her study with the preschoolers. I was tasked with observing how an integrated art curriculum could emotionally benefit children. The research consisted of six art lessons from our comprehensive art curriculum.
Like me, a few children were hesitant at first. The children were asked to draw together in groups rather than draw independently. Art had never been presented to them in this way before, and the difference was unsettling. I later learned that they were encouraged to share ideas and learn from others by working in groups. In doing so, they would be able to personally express their creativity while also providing positive reinforcement for their peers.
The lessons focused on enhancing skills formerly established in the preschool classroom. As each project progressed, the children began incorporating skills learned in the lesson before. In the Toyohiro lesson, for example, they used their knowledge of shapes and lines — which were taught in the van Gogh lesson — to draw trees. They also experimented with various artistic materials, such as oil pastels, tempera paint, corks, and sponges to express their creativity.
I was unaware how impactful art could be to a child. Schools across the country have shifted away from supporting creative personalities and now focus on a STEM integrated curriculum. While STEM is important, it is not enough. Not only do the arts encourage creative expression, but it also inspires them to envision a brighter future. It helps children think outside the box and find innovative solutions. Like art, the world has limitless possibilities.
I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with a few children about their experience with the research. During our conversation, I met an aspiring artist who loved to draw. I couldn’t help but smile when she said,
“Art makes me feel loved because I like to draw people who are important to me.”
Overseeing the children has been an extraordinary experience. Watching them grow, learn, and build creative confidence was inspiring. Although I was nervous at first, their excitement quickly quelled my fears. As I left, their enthusiastic screams of “Goodbye!” and “See you!” were both heart-warming and bittersweet.
For me, writing has quickly become my newfound passion. It is an incredible way to explore different aspects of our unique world, and it becomes a surreal adventure in which we can examine our authentic human nature. Writing has allowed me to bridge the gap between cultures, status, and even generations.
While it was short, my time spent at Garfield Community School was just the beginning. Having the chance to work first-hand with the next generation of innovative children has been phenomenal. Nevertheless, after being with the kids, I can certainly say I have experienced art in action.
Hi! My name is Jimmy.
I am currently an undergraduate at San Jose State University. While not sitting in lectures or exploring limitless nature, I intern at Art in Action as a content writer. Through writing, I hope to serve as a catalyst and help others reshape their character. Writing allows me to bridge the gap between confusion and understanding in a world full of identities or unrealistic expectations. If my writing can influence or educate others, then I know I did my job.