Art is a powerful tool that serves important purposes in our society. It helps those who create it to express themselves to others, shows the beauty of different cultures and time periods, and has the power to affect those it reaches. Art education also helps students of all ages develop skills that will assist them in other subjects, such as reading and math. It encourages critical thinking by allowing students to follow the process of investigating, planning, creating (which is one of the top activities of Bloom’s taxonomy), reflecting, and refining. It can even help younger children develop motor skills and aids in language development.
Since art has the potential to change the hearts and minds of audiences and has so many cross-curricular benefits, why not have students put their art skills to good use for the many animals who need our help? Allow them to choose an animal issue that’s important to them and try one of the following great projects:
Items such as straws, soda rings and cans, and plastic bottles and bags are too prevalent in our society because of their convenience, and if not disposed of or recycled properly, they can hurt animals and the planet. Discuss these issues with students, then have them use some of these common objects to create a piece of art that sends a message to others. For example, turtles are often injured by discarded plastic straws. Students could draw attention to this issue by creating a turtle out of straws.
Some people have a knack for perfectly capturing moments on camera. Photojournalists photograph important events or occurrences in order to tell a story to others, and these pictures can help people better understand the world around them. Jo-Anne McArthur, an award-winning photojournalist, author, and educator, sets an excellent example of the power of photography for students. She created the We Animals project to document the plight of animals used for food, clothing, and entertainment.
Students will likely be able to find plenty of opportunities to highlight the injustices and difficulties that animals face—some possible issues include companion-animal homelessness and how littering affects local animal populations. They can even use the opportunity to shed light on the plight of animals who are dissected in their school.
There are so many different types of written expression that students can experiment with depending on their interests. Have students with literary interests grab a pencil and prepare to change the world! Introduce them to multiple types of writing, such as poetry, prose, fiction, and nonfiction, and then allow them to start creating.
Performing Arts: Music, Theater, Film, and Dance
Some students might be most comfortable expressing themselves through performances. This is a great way to create change—a classic example of this is The Smiths’ 1985 song “Meat Is Murder,” which has influenced many and inspired them to make changes throughout the years. Students can also create plays or short films in order to draw attention to their chosen issue. Students might also chose to perform their literary creations, as Genesis Butler, the author of “My Vegan Dream,” exemplifies in the below video.
Think Outside the Box
Encourage students to pursue art forms that they’re interested in, and you’ll likely find that they’re engaged and invested in the outcome. Maybe you have students who are really interested in technology—have them try creating a video game or designing an app to help animals. You could even encourage some chatty students to create a podcast about animal rights. The possibilities are limitless.
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