Environmental Art Education

  • Empathy
  • The Teacher and Peers
  • Reflecting
  • Bigger Issues

Environmental Art Education

Another approach that is important to me is Environmental art, or Eco-art, which combines art education and environmental education.


One of the biggest focuses is developing empathy, both with other people and with non-humans like plants, animals, and the environment. This involves thinking of oneself as part of a community with the world, not just humans, like an ecosystem which relies on diversity and relationships. In a study I read (cited below), they talked about how students do really enjoy engaging with the environment; they only dislike it when they have no knowledge or experience about the environment, hence the bad habits we’ve developed as a society. Art is a really good method for developing empathy since you see so many different views and feelings through peer art, and with critiques you have a chance to help your peers improve and act on empathy. Eco-art connects to empathy with that as well as participating in engaging with nature like caring for plants or going out and connecting with a specific place.

The study also mentioned how just observing nature while drawing it can lead to empathy. This made me think of meditative activities when you do something repetitive or methodical or you become really focused in an activity that doesn’t involve speaking or reading, it allows you to think about whatever’s on your mind. In this case, observing and drawing plants is very focused and quiet so it allows students to think about the plant and nature, admire it, and even meditate on it my letting your thoughts flow while drawing.

The teacher and peers

As with any class, the teacher should model the teachings. So, in this case it’s very important for the teacher to participate in activities as well as develop a positive relationship with the students. If the teacher is kind, caring, friendly, supportive, etc. then students learn from that behavior to be more caring (and therefore empathetic) themselves. It seems important for eco-art to be very student centered so students actually feel and develop the emotions and connections rather than them being pushed onto the student. This means the teacher has to have an even closer connections to students to interact and hear their individual thoughts and ideas for observation. Students can also develop close peer relationships through group activities to further encourage the empathy gain through working with other students, hearing other points of view, and combining skills.


Reflecting on connections with things, places, and organisms seems to also aid empathy. When you feel connected to something you start to care for it and actually desire to care for it. This is reflected in exploring environmental art through places special to the student, where they can think about how they connect to the place and why it’s special. That then can be prompted to think about the future of whatever you feel connected to, both the goods and bads – and think about how to make the goods actually happen. This leads to student engagement and reflection too by interacting with a place and thinking about the future. The same could be done with caring for a plant and thinking about how you impact it, how the plant depends on you, and the plant’s future. These things can be reflected on through self-reflections, discussions, and interpretive art works as well.

bigger issues

From those connections, students can learn about issues threatening their place and how to work against the issue. This is where environmental art education can teach about sustainability, environmental history, justice, and integrity to make the world or place the version students want to be reality. Art is very useful for communicating and reflecting on these thoughts and learnings that students will come across for art’s diverse outcomes and meanings, and even being inventive with art supplies to put sustainability, etc. into the student’s own practice. And, with these being such big issues, art can be a more concise but still deep method of communicating ideas. Art also has the benefit of being therapeutic for simultaneously dealing with the stress of worrying about the future if students do feel overwhelmed at all. This is a good reason for the order of starting with developing empathy and relationships and connections before moving onto discussing the issues so students feel the compassion to act through art rather than sit in anxiety from the sudden burden of world issues. With art, you can actually make change and this approach teaches that along with the empathy and reflection and resourcefulness.


  • Sunassee, A.; Bokhoree, C. A Designed Eco-Art and Place-Based Curriculum Encouraging Students’ Empathy for the Environment. Ecologies 2021, 2, 248–267. https://doi.org/10.3390/ecologies2030014


Teaching for Artistic Behavior

  • Artistic Behaviors
  • Similar Approaches
  • Assessment
  • Relationships and Communication
  • Resources
  • Evaluation

Teaching for Artistic Behavior

After some research into teaching approaches, I’ve found that Teaching for Artistic Behavior, aka TAB, is one I’d like to apply in my own future classroom.

TAB is for starters is a very student-centered approach. The teacher and students are thought of as equals, with the teacher being more like a facilitator or guide and allows the students to have a lot of freedom and control over their educational experience. But in this case students are also responsible for self-directing their learning and putting in the effort, just into their own interests and goals.

Artist Behaviors

As in the name, this teaching approach focuses on teaching the behaviors and skills that most artists develop. These include practice, persistence, critical thinking, problem solving, observation of processes, reflecting, evaluating outcomes and progress, planning ahead based on those outcomes and reflections, accepting that sometimes you won’t know where you’re going, and above all, making and expressing the things that matter to them. This puts a lot more emphasis on the process of making and experiencing the art rather than making some nice-looking piece. Making art IS a process and can involve a lot of scrapped rough drafts and disliked attempts so, in being a class focused on artist behaviors, this teaching approach reflects that.

Similar Approaches

The TAB approach is a lot like the constructivist approach in my last post in that the TAB approach is very student-centered and puts a lot of emphasis on students actively learning through making art on their own and experimenting and actively practicing with the process and material interactions. And, in making their own art that is important to the student artist, TAB is very focused on the student making their own interpretations and meanings from the experience. Each artist has their own little favorite art approaches, strategies, mediums, and tricks so while the teacher will likely demonstrate basic materials and strategies, it’s still up to the student to make those their own.

TAB is also very similar to another approach known as Inquiry-based education. In this approach, the teacher is also a facilitator focusing on guiding the student through exploring and researching their own interests. Research and thinking strategies might be taught but mostly the teacher would do things like checking student work for research errors or asking prompting questions to think or search further in some relevant direction, and giving suggestions for things that the student might not know about but would benefit them. In TAB, the teacher would do these things as well and give feedback and inspirational suggestions to the students based on their interests, goals, and ideas. Overall, both focus on the student deciding what they want to do and asking their own questions to explore.


In this approach, assessments would probably include self-reflections or other reflective writings to understand student thoughts and processes and ideas in more depth, and critiques to give feedback to the student on their work, and discussions to understand their ideas but also share ideas and maybe gain new ideas from peers for further inspiration. Regardless, the grade would be applied to the observed efforts and growth and processes rather than the finished product which also puts less stress on the student and encourages them more to just try their best.

Relationships and communication

With the approach being process-based, teacher and peer relationships should be pretty close so the student feels comfortable asking for feedback and advice on ideas as needed, but also so they can get that feedback and support without having to ask all of the time. Peer relationships strengthened through discussions and feedback-focused critiques can make students actually want to help each other improve their art. The teacher-student relationship (as mentioned earlier) also has that added benefit of helping the student find the resources and inspiration relevant to the student’s ideas and goals too. And, like the constructivist approach, a relationship with the rest of the school and community will aid this search for the right resources to match the student, such as if they want to make technological art and want to visit the computer lab or even learn from an actual engineer outside of the school.


Resources and technology will also need to be flexible based on student needs and may include internet for free research. A large variety of art supplies to choose from would be required so students can choose their desired medium. It would probably be a good idea to make most of these supplies safe for student independent use so the student can freely grab what they need as they need it without waiting for permission. But, of course there may be some useful-but-dangerous or expensive mediums that the student could still use freely so they can have those sometimes-higher-quality materials, but they would still need permission for those. Just free up as much as you can for ease of use. A class website would be another useful tool for the teacher to more easily keep track of all the individual projects going on and the little steps and parts of those projects, and for easy communication and feedback with the teacher on the side of the students.


In this teaching approach, anything that will aid the students in making the art they want to make should be strived for. And, that is absolutely one of my goals as an art teacher, so I will very likely be making use of this one.


  • 2U Inc. (2021). Teaching methods. Teach. https://teach.com/what/teachers-know/teaching-methods/ 
  • Hein, G. E. (1998). Educational theory. In Learning in the museum (pp. 34-40). New York: Routledge.
  • Kirlew, B. (2021). Teaching for artistic behavior. Teaching for Artistic Behavior Inc. https://teachingforartisticbehavior.org 




  • Methods
  • Assessment
  • Necessities
  • Evaluation


The Constructivist Pedagogy or teaching approach is a very interesting one to me. It is based on the idea that people construct knowledge rather than it just being poured into their heads through lectures and readings. This involves lots of activities leaving towards students actively using their minds and interacting with things, making their own interpretations and developing their own understandings. Of course, this requires participation and engagement on the part of the student but, in my opinion, it’s much easier to be engaged when you’re doing something than when you’re sitting still.


With this pedagogy, the teaching methods involve more so the teacher giving some information in some form, and then giving the students the room to run with it. This can be done through some sort of active experience like interaction, manipulation, experimentation, and activities applying critical thinking and problem-solving skills, all of which are done in an art class so this makes for a great pedagogy for art teachers. And, that makes this approach very student-centered too, since the student has some control over their learning in being more active.


Assessment would probably focus on student processes since this may result in a variety of interpretations of the information. So, the teacher may use self-reflections, discussions, visual journals, written responses, open-ended art projects, or similarly interpretation-centered things so the teacher can get an idea of how the students are thinking about the lessons and what meanings they are constructing. Since students are making their own meanings, the only criteria would be that the interpretations make sense given their thought processes and evidence, as opposed to having a single right answer. The students would especially benefit from discussions to hear those multiple meanings and points of view being generated.


With this open-ended and active learning, it might make sense to have a flexible or movable classroom layout. This would allow the seating to match the activities like being spread out for individual work but having the option to be pushed together for discussions and group interactions to hear the previously mentioned multiple perspectives. And, due to those multiple perspectives, students should be allowed to communicate with other students and have peer relationships. But, of course the teacher should still make sure that students aren’t working in groups the entire time so they still have time to think about their own ideas on their own. Also having relationships with the rest of the school might be beneficial to create active experiences like leaving the classroom to do research in the library or watch a science experiment in the science class which could then inform student artwork. Being open to trying new resources and technology would also be beneficial to create experiences where students could interact with technology for active learning.


The focus on active learning and experiences and interpretation makes this pedagogy seem overall very valuable to the students. When I was in high school everyone hates the typical lecture-based classroom (and I still do) so this is a much-needed pedagogy.


  • Hein, G. E. (1998). Educational theory. In Learning in the museum (pp. 34-40). New York: Routledge.



Deconstruction & Reconstruction

  • Concepts
  • Art-Making
  • Reading Recommendations

Deconstruction & Reconstruction

Deconstruction is a concept that can be highly useful in the art classroom, either as deconstruction for art purposes or deconstruction of concepts that can then be discussed. And then, from the pieces of whatever is deconstructed, we can reconstruct a new idea or artwork, or create something positive or a solution to something negative.


Concepts and viewed artworks can be deconstructed to discover new concepts, interpretations, or solutions to problems.

The most common is the deconstruction of viewed artworks through critiques. This is done through the process of looking at an artwork and describing what you see, looking into the context (culture, artist statement, history, intended meanings) of the work or the artist, then making connections between what is seen and the context to interpretations about the meaning or purpose of the work, and finally applying those interpretations to an evaluation of whether the art succeeded in its message or purpose. And, if the artist is present you can give feedback on how the work can be more successful. This in effect deconstructs the art into the pieces seen and researched in order to find meaning in it.

That critique method can also be applied to real life social justice issues, philosophies, or other concepts for discussion within the classroom, by breaking the concept or issue down into its pieces. What is observed as part of the issue or concept? Who is involved, what is the context or history, or what do you observe as affecting or being affected by the issue or concept? For example, if there’s some community problem the student wants to explore in their artwork, they can be encouraged to go out and observe the affects of that problem, research the context, interview people involved, and think about all of the pieces. Then, they can make connections, such as what’s working or not working and why, and make interpretations based on their observations and findings. Those findings, observations, and interpretations can then be translated into a work of art where the student can express their thoughts about the issue, and even illustrate ideas for a solution to that issue within their artwork.


With art-making, aside from illustrating solutions or ideas about concepts as mentioned above, students can straight up take apart their artwork and it can be very cathartic if they didn’t like the artwork, and they can make new artwork with the pieces or come up with new ideas. Meandering books, weavings, or zines are some fun ideas where the student could do some art-making and then cut it up in different ways and turn it into a little book or a weaving to then create new artworks with the rearrangements. There’s one artist, Karen Navarro, who cuts up portraits and rearranges them to create beautiful new designs. And, from a collage standpoint you start with deconstructing magazines or other found images to turn them into something new or comment on the images used in the collage.

Reading Recommendations



Empowered Experiencing & Making

  • Lack of Empowerment
  • Importance in Classrooms
  • Use in Classrooms
  • Recommended Readings

Empowered Experiencing & Making

Lack of Empowerment

Helplessness is an unfortunately common occurrence in students. Non-artists feel helpless in the sense of not being able to draw or paint realistically like the popular artists of history. When I myself was a student I felt helpless most of the time because I wasn’t old enough to vote or get a job, which made me feel like I couldn’t do anything important. That in combination with always being shy made me feel like I didn’t have a voice to make any change either even if I wanted to.

Importance in Classrooms

Bringing opportunities for empowerment into the classroom can give students a chance to not feel so helpless. Art classrooms especially have the opportunity of giving students a voice through the art they create. And, with that voice, students can become more engaged in the classroom or even in their communities through this ability to have a voice and communicate whatever is important to the individual student. A National Endowment for the Arts study has even found that “at-risk students who have access to the arts (either in the curriculum or via extracurricular activities) have higher academic achievement, are more employable, and tend to be more engaged in civic life” (Cruz, B. & Smith, N., 2013). So, students having a harder time in school could benefit a great deal from taking an art class. 

Use in classrooms

Including empowerment in the classroom isn’t too challenging either. Any project that asks students to respond to an issue of importance to them, such as social justice issues or environmental issues, can empower students by allowing them to have a voice to discuss issues, especially if that voice is sent out to the community or someone in power so that their voice can make a change. Art is a very expressive language that can allow students to express this voice in unique and creative ways, and art being a language then leads to students gaining interpretive skills and critical thinking skills through engaged discussions of that art, or problem-solving skills in the process of making the art to communicate meaning.

Contemporary art can then act as examples for further discussion or inspiration, that can empower students by seeing that the artwork they make has a place in the real-world. If those art examples also use a variety of unique materials such as found objects or items from nature and not necessarily realistic drawing and painting, then students may also be empowered in knowing they can make beautiful art without trying to go for realism. It may even inspire them to try something new, and they would continue to be empowered through the experience of experimenting with materials and finding materials that are fun or just work well for the student.

Just the process of making art can be empowering. The boost of creativity from experimenting with materials and trying to think of ways to make things work is exciting for me. That excitement and creativity alone can be the motivation a student needs to make something that does express their ideas and their voice. Because they can make art, hopefully they won’t feel so helpless.

Recommended Readings

  • Bárbara C. Cruz & Noel Smith (2013) Mark Dion’s Troubleshooting: Empowering Students to Create and Act, Art Education, 66:3, 29-38


attentiveness & community

  • Attentiveness
  • Community
  • Application to Art

Attentiveness & community

Paying attention is something that is actually easy to not do. It’s easy to get caught up in your own head. But, the world and the communities that exist in it can be beautiful and inspiring if we do pay attention to them.


To pay attention to the world and its communities of course involves listening to others when they have something so say or watching what others do so that we can learn from them. Listening allows us to hear what others have to say and try to understand or learn from it. You can learn about another person and how they are different or similar to you, and then you can become closer to that person and create relationships to grow from. And getting to know new people can also help us encounter those differences that we don’t understand and try to understand them to that we can maybe bridge those gaps between ourselves and strangers, instead creating communities that people can thrive in through those connections. Watching can be just as important in paying attention as listening such as in demonstrations of tasks to learn something new or watching someone’s body language to try to understand how they feel, if they are okay, if they could be a friend, or if they should be avoided. And in watching you can see things you haven’t noticed before that could inspire you to do something new yourself or that could wake you up to something that may need to change. Paying attention also leads to the need to speak, to ask questions for clarity or to learn more, or to voice your understanding so that others can assess if you understand them or if you need more time. Or, you can use art as a voice to speak about things you notice while paying attention.


These elements of paying attention are vital to a community because to have a community we need to interact with those around us. That means you shouldn’t just watch from the windows but actually go outside and talk to people, talk about yourself, interview people, collaborate, etc. This is because a community involves relationships and socializing with others and being involved in the community to maintain those relationships and even improve them or improve life for the community. And, to maintain a community you need to be attentive to that community, observe how it functions, and observe and interact with the people in it to understand what the community needs in order to thrive. This is the case with any one-on-one relationship too. And, from that interaction comes communication and team work that can empower the community to be the best it can be.

Sometimes, improving the community means major changes, as we all change as we age in order to grow and mature and be healthy individuals. Those changes require paying attention to the community and society and the world and how everything works in order to diagnose what specific change the community needs. From that point of paying attention the community needs individuals to voice their thoughts and communicate with each other to work out the plan for that change to benefit the community. Sometimes you need to voice thoughts for others who can’t, which will require even more paying attention to make sure you are voicing their thoughts correctly.

Application to art

All of that paying attention and community can be done in the art classroom, or benefitted by art-making. Students can document what they see, hear, or learn about their communities, which can be done using art by the use of visual journals, or illustrations and sketches of places and parts or people of the community. Students can make art expressing their identity in relation to the community and what they noticed about it. Students can also take their documentation and learnings about the community and make that into other art that could even try to communicate a needed change in the community or a proposed new idea to benefit the community. Or, students could make art as a method of communication to direct individuals in their community such as in hand-made gifts or artsy messages like thank you’s. Students can study art from the community and how it affects or is affected by the community. That art can teach students about different places and cultures too, since different places means different communities and cultures which means different art based on local traditions. Even just making art for fun with others in the community can be a great way to bring the community together to be more friendly and welcoming to the relationships that make up a community and a home.

Related Reading Recommendations

  • London, P. (1994). Step outside: Community-based art education. ERIC.
  • Lai, A., & Ball, E. L. (2002).  Home is where the art is: Exploring the places people live through art education (Links to an external site.)Studies in Art Education44(1), 47-66.


Forming self & encountering difference

  • Expression and Forming Self
  • Encountering Difference
  • Students

Forming Self & Encountering Difference

Art is a beautiful mode of communication that allows us to express ourselves. Within that, we can express who we are in our identities but also communicate our differences, which in turn allows us to overcome them.

expression and forming self

Expression is important for anyone but especially for students still trying to figure themselves out. The middle and high school years were such a stressful time for me being exposed to all those new emotions that I really valued having an outlet to express myself in art.

I could create characters as an extension of myself and imagine stories of her doing things I wanted to do but couldn’t due to limitations of self, confidence, or rules. That then allowed me to express frustrations or to develop goals for my future self. And with other forms of art expression I can also explore and experiment with what I like to do to develop my personal art style and express my personality through that. I can also explore and discover who I am by reflecting and thinking critically about myself and expressing that in my art, or I can do research into my past and explore how my past or my family has impacted my identity.

I think that expression can then be very valuable to students in discovering themselves through that reflection while expressing and making art. This can lead back to play in art by meditating and reflecting while just having fun with art. I’m 23 and still learning things about myself and learning new things to improve myself every day. Meditating and reflecting while making art or communicating those things in art helps me track my personal development and acknowledge those ideas about myself.

Encountering difference

And, when I express myself in art or see how others express themselves in art, you start to see the differences between people and their experiences. Those differences add to our identities too by setting us apart from others and making us unique individuals instead of a result of a factory. I can discover that I have different emotions about something from someone else when I see how they address or depict something differently than I do.

When art is used as communication of stories and experiences, I can also start to see how other people experience life differently from me. I can see things in life that I hadn’t noticed before and see other perspectives about a topic that I hadn’t considered. This opens you up to an opportunity to develop empathy too in seeing reality as someone else sees it and how situations can affect others through their expressed stories. For example, I can’t fully know what it’s like to be black in America, but I can start to try to understand by seeing the art created by individuals who are black and listening to what they have to say about their experiences through their art. I can then learn a little more about them and what they go through via the issues they address in their art.


Students experience and understand more complex experiences than we give them credit for and no two people experience life or express themselves the same way. So, I think it’s important that we give them opportunities to express themselves with open-ended art projects and opportunities to share their reflections or statements about their artwork and, as a result, their identity from what and how they express. If we allow this expression, reflection, and discussion about our art and make a point to not censor out controversial topics that students still experience regardless of what we think then we can hear what others have to say and let them tell us who they are, and let them discover who they are.


Play and its possibilities

  • Sometimes a plan just gets in the way
  • let yourself learn something new
  • let your brain think
  • creative awakening
  • Related reading recommendations

Play and its possibilities

Sometimes a plan just gets in the way

I’ve recently been exploring the benefits and possibilities of play in art-making. I remember that I used to focus more on play in my art than any major concept, and I enjoyed the process of art-making a lot more in those earlier years of my life. When I was a kid I would just make art for the fun of it and the self expression but recently I feel like there’s been a pressure to always have a big concept behind your art so it means something, which isn’t always fun. When you have a plan for everything then there’s a lot more stress when things don’t go your way and there’s a lot of stress do make your art look “perfect.” But, when you go into art-making with no plan, then the art doesn’t have to look a certain way because there’s no expectations for it, and the possibilities are endless.

Let yourself learn something new

In that act of playing with art instead of trying to make something “perfect,” you can also learn a lot since you’re more actively making and doing the whole time and just seeing what happens as you go. And, that process of just seeing what happens with play leads to experimenting and discovering new materials, new patterns, and new ways to make art. “Mistakes” become part of the design because – since there was no goal to begin with – it doesn’t matter if there’s a big paint spill in the middle. When art isn’t precious, you stop looking at those paint spills and sloppy marks as mistakes and you just have fun with it. In my own play, I’ve found new patterns I like by just repeating a weird mark or series of lines just for the sake of it; I’ve discovered that white out can be used to make marks as well as hide them; and, I’ve explored how many things an ink blot can look like.

Let your brain think

Playing with art with no plan on your mind is also a great chance to let your mind wander. This creates a meditative state where you can reflect on whatever else is on your mind, or just completely throw your mind into being creative with the marks. This can actually be great for students by giving them time to process what they’d learned recently by thinking about it as they make art. They might even think of something new about that recent lesson because they have had that time to let their mind think instead of watching TV or reading a boring text.

Doodling, I have learned, is actually great for learning like this. When I was a student, I would doodle just to keep my brain and hands actively doing something instead of just sitting and staring at a teacher talk. Sitting still makes me want to take a nap, but doodling lets me listen to the teacher while keeping my eyes on a simple pattern or character sketch instead of the distractions of other students or room clutter. Since there’s no plan for the doodling or art play, my mind isn’t on anything but making the art so it’s not actually distracting much from the class. I think that this limit on visual distractions from looking at the paper instead of the teacher or the rest of the room allows my brain to send more processing power to my ears, so I actually usually listen better when I’m doodling or doing some mindless task with my hands than when I’m looking at the teacher.

Creative awakening

Even without the learning benefits, I feel like I’ve had a creative re-awakening since getting back into play in my art making. Planning takes a lot out of me with the pressure of wanting it to look good but just making art to have fun is in fact really fun. And, that fun gets me a lot more excited about actually making the art and discovering new things and seeing what I can do. I love learning and exploring even as an adult in college and allowing myself to play in art opens myself up to the mysteries and possibilities in creating in that exploring mindset. A lot of my art includes using spontaneous but controlled paint splatters by putting watery paint on the paper and blowing it to see where it goes, but controlling the paint still with the direction and force of the blows. I thought it was fun so I started using a lot but when I started planning to use it a certain way it lost it’s fun and meaning to me. But, working on a piece that I really don’t care about from the beginning sets me up to actually be spontaneous and in that spontaneity I can go down whatever path I want by making things up as I go with the art and seeing where it takes me. That then lets the art show me something new and creative by problem solving the random marks. Since doing this, I feel more creative in the past week than I have in the past few years.

Related reading recommendations

  • Eliza Pitri (2001) The Role of Artistic Play in Problem Solving, Art Education,
    54:3, 46-52
  • Adetty Pérez Miles & Julie U. Libersat (2016) ROAM: Walking, Mapping,
    and Play: Wanderings in Art and Art Education, Studies in Art Education, 57:4, 341-357
  • George Szekely (1994) Shopping for Art Materials and Ideas, Art Education,
    47:3, 9-17
  • Rachel Branham (2016) “What’s So Great About Art Anyway?”: A Teacher’s Odyssey. Teachers College Press.


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