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How art can build student leadership skills

Analyzing and producing art can help students learn communication and interpersonal skills.

Creative art experiences that challenge students to observe, articulate, reimagine, and take risks help build their confidence and leadership capacity, say experts.

In “Art-Infused Student Leadership Projects,” Cheri Sterman, Crayola Education director; Nancy Horvat, Multi-Tier Support Systems specialist, Arts Academy, PA; and Jessica Lura, director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, Bullis Charter School, CA discussed how to develop leadership qualities in students through art activities.

Art to SEEK for Intention

The SEEK™ acronym is a method that allows students to read and decode art. Using SEEK, students describe what they see, give supporting evidence, explain the artist’s decisions, and describe what they already know and what else they want to know about the art.

This method uses inquiry-based observation skills to determine an artist’s intention and message.

Lura noted that her students recognized that they also used these “life skills” in other areas, like providing evidence in English or giving an explanation in math.

Art for Different POVs

Using a viewfinder, which can be made out of a piece of cardstock with a large hole in the center, students can notice the extraordinary in everyday objects. While discussing leadership qualities, Jessica’s students concluded that a leader is able to see different points of view, and that they wanted to develop this leadership skill of seeing things in new ways.

Students used their viewfinders to help them focus on small details of everyday items, rather than trying to focus on an entire room. “(The students) felt like they had a better eye, a better lens, when looking at ordinary things, and they saw how it tied to building up leadership skills,” said Lura.

Art for Communication Skills

Students can also apply leadership qualities, like listening with intention, speaking with clarity and sharing responsibility, to portrait exercises. In this particular exercise, the first student describes a portrait to the second student, and the second student, who cannot see the portrait, must attempt to recreate it.

In this process, the students must work together, reflect, revise, and respond effectively to one another.

When given more decision-making and reflective opportunities, children become more self-aware and demonstrate significant leadership qualities.

About the Presenters

Cheri Sterman, Director of Education for Crayola, helps ignite educators’ creative confidence and establish creative collaborations within schools and communities. She leverages insights from having worked with educators across the country, hearing their passion for innovative teaching strategies that awaken students’ voices. Her approach is to ask essential questions, spark personal epiphanies through hands-on experiences that make thinking visible, and provide reflective prompts. Cheri knows that the best solutions live within educators, and so coaches them in planning their own next steps. Cheri uses an iterative process that helps educators create, present, respond, and connect—making their voices visible. She authored the Art Builds 21st Century Learning series available on and articles in the annual Champion Creatively Alive Children: Principal magazine, helping schools build creative capacity and engage families in this process.

Nancy Horvat is the multi-tier support services coordinator at the Allentown Arts Academy Elementary Charter School in Allentown, PA. She also serves as a Crayola Education Consultant and coaches/manages assignments of Crayola freelance writers. Nancy holds several master’s degrees in education along with a variety of certificates, including leadership and curriculum development. With over 30 years of experience in public schools, she has taught elementary through high school, in a variety of subjects. Nancy is an advocate of art-infused education and helps educators adopt this teaching strategy. Nancy is a champion of student-led project-based learning, which she believes is the most efficient use of educational time and allows for the development of independent, collaborative and creative leadership.

Jessica Lura is the director of strategic initiatives and partnerships at Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, CA. She works with students and teachers supporting their learning and helping them develop 21st century skills. A National Board Teacher and Google Certified Innovator, Jessica has taught both primary grades and middle school. Her favorite part of being an educator is sparking student curiosity so they become lifelong learners who communicate effectively, work collaboratively, think critically, and use innovative and creative approaches to solve problems.

Join the Community

Champion Creativity: The Power of Art-Infused Education is a free professional learning community that helps principals, art teachers and other teacher leaders build creative capacity schoolwide.

This broadcast was hosted by and sponsored by Crayola.

The recording of the edWebinar can be viewed by anyone at here.

[Editor’s note: This piece is original content produced by more events here.]

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