Aesthetic Education ProgramAesthetic Education (AE) is a learner-centered, discovery-based curricular program that helps students make meaning of aesthetic experience by putting the artwork at the center of study. AE develops analytical and critical thinking skills in students through hands-on art-making activities, reflective questioning, and contextual information and research.
A philosophically based program, Aesthetic Education is grounded in the voices of educational theorists such as Maxine Greene, Howard Gardner, and John Dewey and starts with the belief that works of art provide an “inexhaustible resource.” Everyone—child as well as adult—possesses an innate ability to respond to works of art in ways that can heighten perception, ignite the imagination, and challenge preconceived notions. Aesthetic Education is designed to foster and support such meaningful encounters with works of art.
The AE Program functions as a collaborative partnership between EFA Teaching Artists and Aesthetic Education-trained classroom teachers who design and implement inquiry-based, experiential units of study around specific works of art. These units are designed to investigate relationships between an artist’s choices and viewers’ aesthetic response. Through participatory activities and reflection, students develop capacities for observation, analysis, questioning, and meaning making; core skills that readily apply across the curriculum and throughout life.
EFA’s Aesthetic Education Program has been operated by Kalamazoo RESA since 2002 and serves our nine school districts in Kalamazoo County. The AE curricular framework follows a time-tested model originally developed by Lincoln Center Education in New York City. The basic structure of this framework is as follows:
- Each school year, partnering teachers select two works of art (in dance, music, theater, or visual art) from the EFA Repertoire to attend and study (one in the Fall and one in the Spring);
- Teachers and professional Teaching Artists collaborate to design a study unit focused on the chosen work of art (i.e. a dance concert, symphony, painting exhibition, play, etc.) and customized to students’ developmental level;
- Most of these lessons are delivered before attending the artwork;
- Students then attend that work of art (music, dance, theater, or visual art) and participate in reflective lessons after attending the work of art.
In addition, partnering teachers have the option of selecting a third work of art, called a bonus work of art, in either semester in any discipline. A bonus work of art includes admission for students to view the work of art plus one visit from a Teaching Artist. Attendance at all performances and galleries are free of charge to Kalamazoo RESA-affiliated schools. EFA also provides a bus transportation rebate to assist with transportation expenses.
EFA also provides annual professional development opportunities for beginning and advanced Aesthetic Education practitioners, often fulfilling SCECH credit, through our Summer Institute.
For more information, call Kevin Dodd at (269) 250-9391.
This activity is supported by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.