What is Arts Education

UNESCO and the world community of arts educators and educational specialists have defined Arts Education and the goals for it. This can be found in the UNESCO Goals for Arts Education also known as the “Seoul Agenda”.

The UNESCO Goals for Arts Education stress that arts education concerns both education in the arts and education through the arts. Education in the arts covers learning of subjects such as e.g. music, dance, drama, visual art, literature, design and crafts, physical education etc. Education through the arts is through arts and creative practices to improve learning e.g. to read, write and do math – or to learn e.g. about sustainable development.

The goals of the “Seoul Agenda”, which CICLO contributes to, are:

  • To improve Access to quality Arts Education
  • To improve Quality of Arts Education
  • To contribute to addressing cultural and social challenges in the world through Arts Education.

The Seoul Agenda was agreed on at the World Conference on Arts Education in Seoul in 2010 with the participation of 800 educational experts from across the world. At its General Assembly in 2011, UNESCO agreed to the Seoul Agenda. For detailed information on UNESCOs goals for Arts Education please click: http://cicloarts.net/about-unesco/seoul-agenda/


The positive educational effects of arts-rich education

In 2005, Professor Anne Bamford from The University of Arts in London, UK worked with UNESCO and an international team of researchers on comparing existing and new studies on the content and effects of arts-rich education. This resulted in the compendium “The Wow Factor”.

The research suggests that students who have been through quality arts education do better in school also in non-arts basic subjects required.

The research done by Anne Bamford was among the key references in the development of Goals for Arts Education in UNESCO’s Seoul Agenda.

Other research in arts education has followed in many countries and a global cooperation for arts education has expanded at different levels. UNESCO has e.g. established a Chair for Education in Arts and Culture, led by Prof. Eckart Liebau, University of Nürnberg in Germany, who publishes the International Yearbook for Research in Arts Education. A range of global networks has e.g. created the World Alliance for Arts Education: http://www.insea.org/networking/waae.


Cross-curricular approaches: Cases on connecting Arts education with education for sustainable development

In CICLO we strive to make a meaningful connection between education in- and through the arts.

In particular CICLO connects arts education with education on sustainable development and intercultural learning.  Doing this in practice is a cross-curricular challenge to the teacher and the school.

Below you will find three cases addressing this particular field. We hope they will provide inspiration in the context of CICLO.


Inspiration: Examples of Arts Education

Cross-curricular approaches:

1) The Frank Joubert Art Centre and The Ibhabhatane CICLO 2014 project

The Frank Joubert Art Centre and The Ibhabhatane in South Africa have been kind enough to let us show a description of their CICLO 2014 project to let others be inspired;


Purpose / Aims

Nourishing children’s creativity and imaginations by encouraging them through arts education to re-imagine their future.

Children’s different intelligences, their creativity and imaginations need to be nurtured through involvement in all the art forms from an early age.

The skills needed for students to develop successful careers in Design  (and Visual Arts) need to be nurtured from an early age in primary school through exposure to quality art teaching and participation in challenging and exciting art lessons and workshops on an on-going basis across the curriculum.

The first of two major outcomes of the project is to create an exhibition of the work that the students have made showing their processes as well as the final products. The second major outcome will be a performance involving music, drama, dance as well as design. The outcome of the art lessons will be integrated into the performance aspect of the project through exciting set designs that will include visual projections of the drawing that the learners have made. The performance and exhibition will take place in the UNESCO International Arts Education Week in 2014. This project will also form a major arts educational component of the Cape Town Design Capital events in 2014.

The visual art and design aspects of this project will engage students in observational and imaginative drawing, three- dimensional design processes and writing activities that will enable them to conceptualise and realise their ideas using a variety of re-cycled materials that will be transformed creatively and innovatively.

Students will also be able to express themselves creatively through performance using recycled materials to make musical instruments.

The story/narrative will allow students to engage with the issues related to their own lives and they will be able to express their ideas imaginatively through dramatic performance, movement and dance.


Underlying Themes

Developing creative and problem solving behaviours in young people that will nourish and sustain safe, clean, healthy, well- designed, functioning and crime free communities in the future.

One of the important aspects of the exhibition and the performance would be to weave the idea of environmental sustainability, the negative effects of pollution, the conservation of natural resources and the importance of sustaining natural life-cycles (i.e. biodiversity) through a simple story/narrative that children will understand and connect with.

Students will be encouraged through the teaching process in art, music drama and dance lessons/workshops to imagine and find creative and positive solutions to the negative impact of crime, pollution and poverty that many of them experience on a daily basis. This is done by interpreting various aspects of the story using visual art, design and performance processes.


Creative Arts Activities

Visiting Artist from Denmark

Kasper Kobke has been invited by the Danish Cultural Institute/UNESCO to visit Cape Town and work with Ibhabhathane on the CICLO project for three weeks as a drawing teacher in 2014. Kasper has already had experience of working with children in South Africa. He is an excellent artist and teacher. His very large and detailed pencil drawings are most impressive.


Creating Books

The students create simply designed books to illustrate and tell the stories about their lives and also to share ideas around how they would like their communities to look and function in the future. Some of these stories and images will be used as large scale projections, in the performance. The images from the books are photographed and shared with the groups of children from Copenhagen (who can do similar projects and exchange their ideas both visually and in writing). On the one side of the book, the stories are about life as they experience it. On the other side, the images illustrate their vision of a better life or future and how they believe this can be achieved.


Creating Boxes for set design (re-cycled)

The students paint or draw images, words, designs, colours onto the different surfaces of the boxes. The boxes are rotated, stacked and moved around the stage in various ways to reveal the visual imagery/words etc. at significant times in the performance as the story unfolds.

Ideas for the sides of the boxes:

  1. One side of the box is messy and dirty to represent a community overcome by crime, unemployment, pollution, disillusionment. This is used in the opening scene of the performance…
  2. Who am I (Portrait and name)
  3. Where do I come from (a view of your street/ street names)
  4. Mapping (where am I in relation to others – Denmark, Brazil and Russia). Creating symbols on maps that illustrate positive and negative experiences.
  5. Symbolic image and words in mandala designs representing rebirth, regeneration, health, positive living etc. Examples of words: GROW – LISTEN – LOOK – HEAR – COMMUNICATE – HELP – WORK – GROW – ASK – SHARE – EXTEND
  6. A re-imagined community. What you want your environment to look like.

(This process will be facilitated by Simphiwe Ndzube, a young artist and top Fine Art Student at the Michaelis School of Fine Art UCT, who received his FET training in Painting and Mixed-media from the Frank Joubert Art Centre and matriculated from Isilimela High School in 2009.)


Large Puppets

Simple and effective larger-than-life puppets that represent the important characters in the story are created on sticks that are carried and performed by the learners. Strong colour and texture differentiated to symbolise the different characteristics of each puppet.


Butterflies, Birds, Insects

Symbols of regeneration created in the art lessons and used in the performance. This also symbolises new life fitting the CICLO theme of life cycles. Insects and butterflies are also indicators of environmental changes and linked to the health of the natural environment. They are important in the cycle of organic and sustainable food production.


Music and songs

  1. Pedro Espi-Sanchis, ‘The Music Man, assisted by Zama Qambi’ – music from re-cycled materials (the Tshikona Pipe – one person one note)
  2. Marc Hendricks, song-writer – theme song written for the show
  3. Drumming provided by Zama Qambi as background rhythms and to create mood etc.



Movement choreographed by the dance teacher at Claremont Primary who will work with a group of focused learners from Claremont Primary to interpret the narrative/story through movement and dance.


The story/ narrative

The story brings together the magic of stories and fables and the realities of children’s lives in Cape Town.

The story will be performed by different groups of students from the participating schools though music, dance and drama. This story will form the springboard for the art and design lessons/workshops with various students of the art lessons.

This is the story of a boy and girl who leave their community and embark on a journey/quest to find a solution to the environmental and social problem in their community.

The children’s community is a poverty stricken, polluted and crime-ridden environment where people express themselves through anger and violent behaviour. People in this community have lost their ability to hear and communicate with each other because of the levels of fear, hatred, illness and anger that they live with on a daily basis. The children in the first scene of the performance express their experience of life as it is and express their wishes for a better future…

  • People are poor and there is always a shortage of healthy and nourishing food.
  • People living in over- crowed shacks.
  • The environment is littered and polluted exacerbating the dis-ease and frustration.
  • People steal and take what does not belong to them from others who are trying to make an honest living.

The children leave their community in search of a solution and better life. On their travels they encounter other people along the way and learn about the problems others are experiencing in their communities (what are the issues in Brazil, Denmark, and Russia). This part of the story could be used to incorporate the artworks and writing of children from other BRICS countries

They travel and find their way to Table Mountain where they encounter the mountain spirit. The mountain spirit invokes the elemental spirits of the wind, water fire and the earth who share their wisdom with the children of how they may change things in their community. They suggest looking at the problem from different perspectives in order to bring about changing attitudes.

(Reference can be made to the history of the San. The mountain itself was home to this community thousands of years ago. The San/Bushman relationship with their environment was sustainable.)

The mountain spirit shows the children how other children have come up with solutions for similar problems. Here the childrens’ drawing-stories and words are used in projections – their re-imagined lives.

The children return to their community and the performance ends where they discover how to make beautiful music and beautiful images from recycled materials (boxes and pipes etc…Picking up old pipes and junk and discovering music in them (Pedro’s instruments). The children discover ways of making beautiful images from recycled materials (e.g. old pieces of charcoal – making their own drawings created with/inspired by Kasper’s drawings. (Other ideas will be suggested in further discussion with drama facilitators…)

Because they are able to create beautiful music they are also able to communicate with each other using the language of understanding and co-operation.



2) Comics communicate the students’ messages about sustainability

Most children enjoy expressing themselves through drawing. All children know and have read comics. They are familiar with the effects of the comics and the distinctive use of onomatopoetic words and symbols such as lightening, exclamation marks, thunder clouds, question marks etc.

The comic tells a story and communicates messages through pictures and words – or perhaps just in pictures and onomatopoetic symbols. It is possible to express just about anything, and comics have shown to have immense communicative impact.

As the students are working with sustainability, it would be obvious to convey new knowledge and important messages through a comic campaign.

Useful suggestions for working with comics can be found on World Comics Finland homepage.

World Comics Finland is a registered NGO founded by cartoonists and volunteers in 1997. The organisation is based on voluntary work and it raises money to implement projects all over the world. Since 1997, a larger number of workshops have been accomplished in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Under the tab “Downloads” you will find:

  • A step-by-step instruction to teaching students to make comic posters in A4 and A3 sizes.
  • A step-by-step instruction in making 8-pages comics and/or leporello books with appertaining PowerPoint slides.
  • The book Grassroots Comics – a development communication tool


3) Music

Working with structures of rhythms

Watch the Swedish shot film Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers. Find the film on Youtube:

Discus “the musical instruments”, the small repetitions and the cyclical nature of the film in class: look closer at the scenes in the kitchen, in the bedroom, in the bathroom and in the living room.  Have a discussion about the elements, which are not repeated but have other functions in the stomp and in the film. The film has a linear time frame. Spray cans and cans of shaving foam follows a similar linear structure and they can only be used until they are empty.


The students’ own stomp

Discuss making a stomp in class using instruments from the class room inspired by the Swedish short film Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers.


A set of drums

A drum set made of empty plastic bottles, pots, cardboard boxes and wooden boxes are placed upside down in a larger solid cardboard box.

Drumsticks: Either real drumsticks from the music room on the school or drumsticks made out of wooden sticks and branches etc.

Foto: Torben Blankholm

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