Brianne Gidcumb | June 2017
Visual Arts Activities for Mindfulness
Last month, we discussed how you might cultivate mindfulness in visual art practices. This month, let’s dig in one step further and discuss specific visual arts activities you might introduce into your classroom to encourage a mindful environment.
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s attention to the present moment. It is about drawing awareness to what’s going on internally and acting intentionally and thoughtfully in response to those stimuli. Cultivating mindfulness practices in the classroom can positively impact our students in a number of ways. Mindfulness can help students react more constructively to stress. It can help improve social interactions between students. It can help our students practice compassion for themselves and others, deal with “failures,” and develop growth mindset.
We know that artistic practices can be naturally mindful, as they require a great deal of introspection, focus, awareness, and reflection. We discussed techniques for encouraging mindful habits in everyday artistic practices last month. Here are five activities you might want to explore to further your journey into the mindful classroom. These might be guided activities, or they might be tools and practices you establish in with your students for them to use when they feel it is necessary.
The word mandala originates from the Sanskrit word for “circle.” Making mandalas is a great means of creative expression through “doodling,” while also integrating some very important math concepts like radius, diameter, circumference, and symmetry. Mandalas can also be a great practice in mindfulness. You might have students simply color pre-made printable mandalas, or you might have students create their own mandalas.
Additional Resource: Check out EducationCloset’s Mandalas Music and Math STEAM Unit to amp up the cross-curricular rigor.
Zentangles are similar to mandalas in that they are a form of “doodling,” and they are a great means of artistic mindfulness. However, symmetry isn’t required in the same way it is in a mandala. Zentangles allow for a great deal of creativity and artistic exploration. There are some great YouTube tutorials on creating zentangles, as well as some great zentangle examples and directions. This might simply be used as an artistic activity to cultivate mindfulness and growth mindset with your students, or you might tie in some important mathematic principles.
Additional Resource: See EducationCloset’s article on Zentangle Goal Setting.
Now, at first blush, this might seem like “trace your hand and make a turkey” art. But with the right guidance, there is potential to authentically use collage as a means to communicate a message, to explore content-related concepts and skills, and to allow for the meditative practices that contribute to a mindful atmosphere.
Depending on the needs of your students, they might create a collage to be used as a tool for calming them down when they feel agitated. They might create a collage related to a mantra or goal they’ve set for themselves. Or they might simply find the process of creating a collage related to a content topic (geometry, plot, theme, etc.) to be a mindful practice.
Additional Resource: I found this image on Pinterest to be really inspirational for the idea of integrating collage with integrity. Use the idea of theme and variation to have students express different qualities about themselves and their goals. They might apply this same theme and variation technique to a unit of study in any content area.