High School: Practicing Mindfulness
When choosing art lessons, I aim to create something that will not only be of interest to my students, but also challenge and help them in a setting outside of my art room. I’m incredibly happy to be teaching in a time when students are receiving the accommodations they need: whether it’s an IEP or 504, or something as great as the Teen Center that is offered at my high school.
Mental health is a much-discussed topic, and I feel that art is a great opportunity for students to connect to themselves and practice mindfulness.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the act of being aware of the present moment, and being able to accept one’s feelings and thoughts, and is proven to be extremely therapeutic. Examples include a five-minute sketchbook warm-up where students can sketch out their daily thoughts, or having class time with no talking, just working and listening to calming music. Interestingly, the left side of the brain is associated with logic and rational thoughts. Practicing mindfulness brings focus to the right side, which is associated with visualization, emotions and daydreaming, helping students to gain artistic freedom and creativity within a classroom setting.
As the school year goes on, I find that my students gain a stronger sense of the type of artists they are and what type of art they are most interested in creating. They seem more confident and are more likely to take creative risks. One particular lesson that I taught that really focuses on mindfulness is the creation of personalized mandalas.
As a class, we discussed symbolism and what it means to represent something with a symbol. After discussing symbols and reviewing the elements of art and principles of design, I introduced students to mandalas. At this point, the lesson could go in many different directions: cultural, historical, mathematical, or simply artistic. I chose to focus mostly on the history of mandalas, their purposes and how they originated, and the art process itself.
Sketching and Measuring
Students sketched out ideas of things that were meaningful to them and then considered ways to develop a design with symbols that could be repeated in a mandala design. We also talked about balance, radial symmetry, and basic color schemes. Once students sketched their ideas, they drew them precisely using protractors and rulers, making measurements to ensure their mandala designs were balanced and even.
Discussion and Reflection
On top of a final critique, students discussed their mandala designs. They also did a reflection on what they considered the most interesting part, what was most challenging, and what they would do differently.
This lesson allowed me to get to know my students better. I learned much about them through their final mandalas and the sketches they created beforehand. This lesson also allowed students the opportunity to work with simple elements such as line, shape, and color to create an intricate and unique design. Lastly, it gave students the opportunity to personalize their artwork, to take a step back from what is logical or what is expected, and to create something personally meaningful.
In a world that is constantly pushing the need for grades and numbers, it’s important to sometimes take a step back and to acknowledge the needs of the students in my art room. I truly believe that mindfulness in the art room is one of the best practices to teach.
Meagan Bellucci is an art teacher at Egg Harbor Township High School in Egg Harbor, New Jersey. firstname.lastname@example.org
Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
Mandala Project: mandalaproject.org/about/index.html