Learning the Story of America with Visual Arts
If a picture is worth a thousand words, American art could fill a history book with details about our country’s past. Visual arts make history come alive and tell stories about major historical time periods and events. Just as Picasso’s Guernica communicates how he felt about the Nazis, art as a visual storybook gives us historical details and often the emotion behind them.
Guess what else! Visual arts allow your learners to become actively engaged, even attaching emotions to what they are viewing. In fact, studies have shown that you can increase historical empathy in children just by allowing them to view art. Beyond the aesthetics of art appreciation, art observation increases a child’s capacity to perceive what life was like for people who lived in a different time and place.
Since we’re always on the hunt for art observation and picture study resources, I was thrilled to find a free downloadable art study pack from Santa Ana College. This nine-unit study (in PDF format) uses art to provide a visual heritage of American history from the colonial period through the 20th century. It’s listed as a high school resource, but it’s easy to tweak the study for all ages, especially upper elementary and middle school.
The units are filled with interesting facts and include a large variety of different art forms. Paintings, sculptures, signs, and photography are just some of the subjects featured for observation. Also included are fun art projects along with lessons about basic art principles such as the Rule of Thirds and color theory.
The nine units include:
- Unit 1: Understanding America Through Art
- Unit 2: Patchwork Comfort
- Unit 3: The Truth Tellers
- Unit 4: Landscape Painters of the Wild Frontier
- Unit 5: The Moderns
- Unit 6: Contemporary Art
- Unit 7: Folk Art
- Unit 8: Hand-Crafted History
- Unit 9: Monuments and Memorials
While this resource isn’t a true Charlotte Mason picture study, it’s filled with captivating facts, engaging artwork, and thought-provoking questions that you can tailor for use with your regular picture studies. It’s a well-rounded, interesting resource. Get it while it’s free! 🙂
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