Creative Ways To Use Art To Teach Students About Culture and History


Art evokes powerful emotions and can engage students’ thoughts, creativity, and curiosity in ways they never thought possible. What’s more, you don’t have to teach art to use it as a learning tool. 

For example, if you teach history or world culture, you can use art to create unique learning opportunities. Here are tips on using art to teach students about the past and cultural history.

Virtual Museum Visits

You don’t have to live close to a museum to visit one. Instead, you can arrange a virtual tour for your class. National or local museums may have artwork or exhibits related to the history or culture you want to share with your students. A virtual visit is a great way to shake things up in the classroom and engage students.

The museum you plan to tour may offer lesson plans you can use to supplement your syllabus. For example, some museums combine subjects, such as art and math, to teach students about historical figures. 

For example, one lesson plan at the Metropolitan Museum of Art involves studying a famous landscape painting called “Heart of the Andes.” Students create a social media update or blog post about their “trip” to the landscape depicted in the image. They also draw a highlight of their visit to accompany the post. While flexing their artistic muscles, students learn about English Language Arts and visual arts.

A reliable internet connection fully immerses your class in their virtual experience. However, Wi-Fi cutting in and out or lagging can become a distraction. Before your virtual trip, consider setting up mobile hotspots for schools to help you and your class experience a fast, secure internet connection. You can also provide hotspots for students to ensure everyone in your classroom can enjoy a virtual tour at home.

Holiday and Seasonal Art Projects

Is there an upcoming observational day or event connected to the culture or history you want to introduce to your students? If so, plan a special art project for an extra layer of engagement that goes beyond a textbook.

Examples of U.S. holidays and events to consider include Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Earth Day, and Veterans Day. During Women’s History Month, have your class research overlooked women in history and use drawings or create a collage that represents their contributions. Encourage them to research women from diverse backgrounds. 

For Earth Day, have everyone in your class choose an animal from a list of endangered or vulnerable species. Then, distribute recycled materials like cardboard, cork, and plastic bottles to re-create their chosen animal. Along with their artwork, they can share their selected species’ history, including habitat and evolution. If the animal or species is significant to a specific culture, your class can also explore and share that information.

Magazine Cover Design 

Magazine covers are where history and art come together. Have your class depict a significant historical event or figure by designing and drawing a magazine cover. You can distribute physical copies of magazines or look at some online to give students some inspiration.

For this assignment, ask your class to think of a lead article title connected to the historical event to include on the cover. They can also include other elements of magazine cover design, such as supporting cover lines, the masthead, the issue, and the date. Your class can present their covers and explain the event or figure connected to it.

Art can be a great way to teach students about culture and history. Use these tips to help your class understand the past and how different cultures experienced it.

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