Innovative Learning Through Visual Arts

Last week, Turning Point School celebrated our annual Festival of the Arts, highlighting the year’s arc of visual arts education from Preschool through Grade 8. Middle school “art docents” led gallery tours for parents, students, and staff; they demonstrated incredible confidence, leadership, and courage as they guided us through the galleries and helped us to see the process behind the products.

Of particular interest was the Maker-in-Residence project, displayed in the Building 2 Lobby. Each year, Turning Point invites an artist from the Los Angeles community to come work with all of our students on one school-wide project related to the arts. This year, we were lucky to work with Aaron Kramer, whose work weaves the beauty and wonder of storytelling with a reinvention of recycled and reclaimed objects.

Aaron was the perfect “Maker-in-Residence” to work with our community as we explore the capabilities of our new Maker Lab. Using storytelling and “automata” (simple machines that perform sequential functions), this year’s maker project integrated so many skills, from storytelling to mechanical techniques to collaboration to aesthetic representation! The entire project exceeded expectations; the integration of skills with storytelling is truly goosebump-making, and I invite you to explore the exhibit if you have not yet had a chance to do so.

Arts bring so much to the learning process. Beyond the appreciation of beauty and opportunities for personal expression, the arts also demonstrate more than one solution to a problem, as well as the value of asking questions and seeing multiple perspectives. Art teaches us there are many lenses through which to observe and interpret the world. Art also offers practice in problem-solving, which encourages innovation, helps students to manage frustration, and encourages students to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty. It allows us all to take courageous risks when we have no map or blueprints to follow, and to get messy in the unknowable.

The arts also strengthen students’ self-confidence, by providing them with opportunities to feel the accomplishment of finishing a project that brings a vision into being. Art projects allow children to develop their voices and to communicate their interests. And to complete a work of art, students must learn persistence, determination, and higher-level thinking around problem-solving and communication skills.

Engaging in artistic endeavors also improves motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and social skills—especially when collaborating with peers. We know that students do better when they are deeply engaged in a subject, and the arts also inspire personal connections, which leads to building stronger relationships with peers and with themselves.

In an increasingly visual world, being conversant with art allows children to learn how to interpret, criticize, and understand visual information, as well as recognize the choices artists make to portray a subject.

Creativity is less about subject matter and more about approaches to learning. Any inquiry-based process inspires creativity. We saw these mindsets in our STEAM expositions earlier in the year, we see them in the Maker-in-Residence project, and we can see them in the various trajectories students pursue to understand a math challenge.

But the arts—which require the development of individual perspectives, voices, and viewpoints—highlight creativity as an essential ingredient to inquiry-based learning. And not only is creativity a necessary skill for success in the 21st century, but it is good for our overall well-being, too. When we practice creativity, our brains release dopamine, the neurotransmitter that motivates us to learn and associates good feelings with learning. It is a key intellectual element in Turning Point’s positive equation for achievement, as it enhances students’ engagement in their own learning.

A final note – if you were here for the Docent Tours, you likely viewed the grade-level masterpieces in our Building 1 hallways, near the Morning Care room. These incredible pieces of art were created collaboratively by students in each grade level, under the direction and guidance of our visual arts team. Each of these framed pieces will be available for bidding during the online auction in conjunction with this year’s Spring Gala on Friday, May 3.

If one of these masterpieces would look perfect in your home or office, be sure to register to bid and get your ticket to the Gala, joining us for what promises to be a lovely evening of dining, dancing, and comradery. Also, our “Raise the Paddle” at this year’s Gala will help support Turning Point’s visual and performing arts initiatives, so if you liked what you saw during the Art Docent tours last week, please support us in continuing to provide our students with these incredible opportunities.


Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School

Congratulations to our Visual Arts team – Rory Sloan, Rodolfo Buonocore, and Zach Hinkle – on the incredible and intentional ways they have worked all year to bring together the elements that have now transformed our common areas into visual expressions of our students’ creativity and talent. The arc of technique was evident throughout, our students’ joy in making art was palpable through their work, and the docents were so well-prepared. It is a fabulous community-building event and a great source of pride for the school. This year’s project was ambitious and took a lot of time, energy, effort, organization, collaboration, and perseverance—all of which was so appreciated by all who toured last week. Much appreciation and applause to the art team!

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