Students Adopt a Growth Mindset through Art

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by Erikah Swift | March 1, 2022

Have you ever tried to create something that did not turn out the way you wanted? Were you disappointed in yourself? Did you learn from your mistakes and try again?

Each Thursday, our Forms One and Two(first and second year students) can be found drawing, painting, or otherwise creating in visual arts class. The air is filled with chatter: “I need that green color,” “How do I do this?” “Yours is so good!” Led by STEAM Coordinator, Danielle Ereddia, and AmeriCorps member, Rachel Smith, each lesson brings a new opportunity to increase students’ self-confidence and belief in their ability to be an artist.

The unit started with students identifying the three primary colors — red, yellow, and blue. Students learned to mix primary colors to get secondary colors — green, purple, and orange. Since then, each lesson adds onto the preceding one. They discussed how colors can represent different emotions or concepts in different cultures, and drew patterns that represented the colors. The finished product is a color wheel with different hues of colors and imaginative shapes and lines.

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Art class is unique because students are not only graded on the completion or accuracy of their work, but also in their ability to try new things, learn from their mistakes, and not give up — their growth mindset. In class, students express small frustrations like an uneven line or a drip of paint that fell in an unintended spot. In response, Ms. Danielle creates comfort and reassures students that nothing is perfect. The goal is for students to be proud of themselves and their growth as an artist.

To underscore this lesson even further, every day class includes explicit conversation about having a growth mindset. During one class, students wrote affirming and encouraging statements to practice being kind to themselves and being proud of their work. A Form One student wrote “learning is life” as her word of encouragement alongside an illustration of her favorite emoji.

Visiting art class to spend time with the students, I find myself often critical of my own work and doubting my ability to follow the assignments. While working alongside a Form Two student, I woefully expressed how I was having a difficult time drawing my shapes to go along with my affirming and encouraging statement. A crescent moon and cloud seemed difficult beyond my imagination. She asked to borrow my pencil and said, “I think you should draw it like this.” I mimicked her design, and she assured me that it looked right. One of GVP’s core values is lifelong learning. We are all students and we are all teachers. It became clear during that moment in art class that there will always be challenges, but with a growth mindset, it is possible to accomplish anything.

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The routine is the same at the end of each class. Students pack their belongings, wash the paint brushes clean, and place their artwork on the same table to dry. Their eyes scan over each others’ work commenting on what catches their attention. Each one is colorful and vibrant, and hints at the girls’ personalities. The moment is reflective — thinking about the process is took to create the art. The students express appreciation and kindness for their school sisters’ works, as every idea is brought to fruition.

GVP is grateful to Georgia Council for the Arts for their generous support of our arts programming.