By Aesthetics, in this context, we are referring to a less analytical and more immediate, sensorial experience of the arts and our everyday environment. In this lesson example, we are focusing on an aesthetic response to the formal qualities of the arts – namely the art elements of form and space. We might also ask students to consider the different qualities of feeling conveyed by different types of lines, the emotive qualities of different colors, or of various body movements or musical instruments.
We also want to carry this type of aesthetic and sensory awareness beyond the arts to our everyday environment. Considering the aesthetic environment of our classrooms and materials is a natural bridge. John Dewey pointed out that if classrooms are not “aesthetic,” they are “anesthetic.” Small changes can be made to the environment, including the use of plants, artwork on the walls, color, lighting, background music, and configuration of the space, to make a classroom more aesthetically engaging. The teaching methodology in Montessori and Waldorf schools involves presenting lesson materials in a fashion that invites aesthetic wonder and emphasizes the sensorial qualities of the materials. Simply taking a moment to invite students’ sensory perception and response to the materials and environment can begin to open up this window. Taking moments to delight with students in a cloud formation, the sound of a bird, or the exquisite design of a student’s shoes or electronic device can help to develop aesthetic awareness in everyday life.