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Developmentally Appropriate Practices: The Aesthetics Domain

Amber Kalender

Fresno Pacific University


There are many components that make up a developmentally appropriate curriculum. One

of the key areas in a developmentally appropriate curriculum is the Aesthetics Domain. In this

domain the focus is on nature and the appreciation of beauty. Mayesky (2011) describes

aesthetics as a feeling of wonder. In the classroom aesthetics can be incorporated throughout the

classroom environment and the curriculum in a variety of ways.

Aesthetics in an educational setting is percieved as the ability to perceive through the

senses, be sensitive to, and appreciate the beauty in nature and creations in the arts. (Kostelnik,

Sideman, & Whiren, 2013). When incorporating aesthetics in the classroom it is the instructors

role to provide opportunities for children to take in the aesthetics of nature and art. A

developmentally appropriate curriculum that uses aesthetics will feature many art activities

including: visual arts, performing arts, usable arts, and literary arts.

Art in a classroom that embraces aesthetics will focus on the beauty that is found in

nature. Visual art in the classroom includes experiences such as drawing, painting, sculptures,

printmaking, mosaics, and collages. Children can go on a nature walk and take elements from

their outdoor environment and incorporate that into a visual art activity. Children can take leaves,

rocks, and flowers and create a self-portrait using natural materials.

Performing arts in the classroom can also incorporate aesthetics. In the classroom garden

students can grow gourds. Once the gourds are mature they can be picked and dried to create

maracas. Using natural instruments is a way teachers can foster an appreciation of natural

elements in their classroom while supporting drama in the classroom.

The next form of art is usable art which is also referred to as crafts. Usable art is craft that

a child can create using natural materials that can be used in the childs daily life. Examples of

different types of usable art is: weaving placemats or baskets, knitting scarves, or making jewelry

for the dramatic play area. One activity that can be successful in an early childhood classroom is

pottery. Taking clay students can take clay and make pinch pots to store classroom objects, like

paint brushes, and art supplies in.

Finally, literary arts such as writing stories, poems, and plays can be used creatively in

the classroom to use elements from nature. Story telling stones is a great example of using

natural elements to tell a story. On small stones about an inch to three inches in diameter the

instructor can paint or paste pictures onto the stones and put them in a bag. Children can use the

stones and arrange the pictures in any order they want and tell the story with the visual cues on

the stones.

Each of the different types of art experiences are tools for the instructor to support their

students in aesthetics. According to the textbook, Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum Best

Practices in Early Childhood Education, Aesthetic education is a deliberate effort by teachers to

provide experience in nature and the arts, nurture awareness of the arts, foster appreciation of the

arts, and develop skills in evaluating art forms. (Kostelnik, Sideman, & Whiren, 2013).

Educators who incorporate aesthetics in their curriculum are being intentional teachers when

developing lesson plans and learning experiences for their students.

Art experiences in the aesthetic domain are either responsive or productive. Responsive

experiences consist of three types of activities: discovery activities, exposure activities, and

evaluation activities. Discovery activities are art activities that allow a child to appreciate the

natural beauty of any given natural material such as a flower. In a discovery activity student uses

their senses to discover and explore elements of the given material. Exposure activities give the

child an opportunity to develop an appreciation of works of art such as visiting a museum.

Finally, an evaluation activity promotes the students ability for form their own thoughts and

preferences when looking at art. An example of an evaluation activity would be to ask the

student at an art museum to identify their favorite showcase or individual painting.

The second type of experience in an aesthetic domain is productive aesthetic experiences.

Productive aesthetic experiences are activities where a child can be creative in an engaging art

activity. Children should use a variety of material during productive aesthetic experiences. An

example of productive aesthetic experiences could be a classroom Art Hop. Each child could

create different types of art work throughout the year using many different mediums. The

instructor could then help the children create a display for their art work to be presented for

parents and peers to enjoy.

By giving students so many experiences with art, instructors are also building on

foundational skills for many other subject areas, The purpose of implementing creative thinking

teaching is to develop students to have creative thinking, attitudes, and abilityeffective

teaching strategies and activity design to provide opportunities for the students to exert their

imagination so as to cultivate students smooth, flexible, innovative, and sophisticated

thinking.( Mei-Ju, & Chuan-Hsing, 2017), children can take skills that they have acquired

through art and apply them to all curriculum areas. Aesthetic activities allow children to discover

science skills such as physical properties of objects by working with objects from nature and

exploring the color, size, weight, and texture of materials used in their art. As students draw they

may think about concepts in math like shapes as they draw pictures of people. Some students in

class may say a circle head, a rectangle body, etc. as they draw a person. Art can also help young

children express their emotions, during self-portraits there are children who draw happy faces

and other who draw themselves crying or scribble over their face with black crayon, at times it

can be hard for children to verbally talk about feelings, but emotions can be translated in drawing

much easier. Finally, children learn social conventional knowledge as they experience art.

Students learn how be a good audience member, how to behave in different social settings such

as a nature walk or a museum visit, which have two different behavior expectations for the

students. Art is the common thread that can tie all domains of a childs development together and

it is up to the instructor to provide meaningful experiences in art for children to grow in each


When it comes to teaching the Arts, there are three differing approaches to teaching. The

first approach is referred to as teacher controlled. The teacher controlled approach is more

restrictive on a childs creativity. The instructor sets out materials and has an example for

children to follow. In the teacher controlled approach there is no room for individuality and the

child may hear that they are not doing it right if they stray from the example. When displayed it

may be difficult for the children to recognize which one is theirs.

The second approach is child controlled. In this approach the child has full control of

their art and the materials they choose to use. The child controlled approach is a great activity for

children who feel confident in their art and do not mind taking the lead when creating art,

however, some children may feel overwhelmed with so many choices and will stray away from a

child controlled art experience.

The last approach to art is shared control. In the shared control approach the teacher and

the child share the same amount of control they have on the art experience. The instructors job is

to set out different materials for the students to use and demonstrate how to use the materials

properly. The students can then choose from the preselected materials and make their work of

art. The art is still unique to each child even though they used similar materials. The children do

well in this approach because they have learned the right techniques for the materials given and

feel confident that they can use them.

In the classroom the teacher has specific duties when creating an art curriculum for

aesthetic learning. To offer the children high quality experiences the instructor must

continuously offer high quality experiences in art. To continue developing interest in art the

instructor must listen to the interests of the students and provide them the proper materials to

meet their interests. To promote childrens interests in art and nature the instructor should

regularly discuss beauty in nature and works of art with their class. Teachers can also support

students in exploring dramatic play scenarios by creating prop boxes, incorporating dramatic

performances during story time, and offering support to children. During math and science

activities the instructor can incorporate art into the lesson to make the math or science

experiment more meaningful. Instructors should support students on an individual level and help

each student express themselves in their own way. Teachers who want to foster aesthetic

development in their classroom must also seek to be more creative on their own time and

develop their own interests, so they can share their interests with the class.

Often art and aesthetics are pushed aside in todays school system. However, when we

teach young children to see beauty in nature and art we are giving them permission to think

critically about the world around them and explore. Aesthetics teaches educators that when it

comes to educating young children stopping to smell the roses is not only important but should

be a common practice. Through creating art children develop meaningful skills that translate into

all areas of their development and creates a strong foundation for the rest of their lives.

Feeney, S & Moravcik, E. (1987). A Thing of Beauty: Aesthetic Development in

Young Children. Young Children

Kostelnik, M.J., Sideman, A.K., & Whiren, A.P. (2013). Developmentally Appropriate
Curriculum: Pearson New International Edition: Best Practices in Early Childhood
Education. Pearson.
Mayesky, M. (2011). Creative activities for young children. Albany, NY: Thomson

Delmar Learning.

Mei-Ju, C., & Chuan-Hsing, W. (2017). Integrating Creative Play in Preschool Preservice

Teacher Education: Orchestrating Aesthetic Inquiry for Young Children. International

Journal of Organizational Innovation, 9(4), 185-204.

Seefeldt, C. (2005). How to work with standards in the early childhood classroom. New York:
Teachers College Press.