Don’t teach Islamic Art as a stand alone subject! I have always felt that teaching Islamic Art through a theme is a really fun way to get students engaged. Moreover, a cross-curricular approach is a more natural mode of teaching Islamic Art. This could be because Islamic Art in the Muslim world is an interplay of mathematics, religion, spirituality, language, technology, sound, citizenship, feelings and science.
Islamic Art is best understood through various subjects, each adding to the overall picture.
In the past I have done projects that explore Islamic Art through different subjects. As each discipline adds something to pupil experience, the final response of the child can be quite astonishing in terms of the creative result. And nothing ever exists in a vacuum anyway. The other great thing about this approach, is that the teaching gets to become quite authentic, as teachers and pupils can really home in on the different strands of a theme. They get time to consider their own responses and not get overwhelmed by trying to fit in over 1400 years of Islamic Art in one go!
Teachers can always find an angle they will enjoy covering this way too.
It can also make planning easier as you can fit thematic Islamic Art into what you are doing. For example exploring African Islamic Art as part of a project on Africa, or Islamic Art of the Taj Mahal when your topic is India. I have also had fun incorporating Arabic Calligraphy whilst teaching Impressionism and gone further by linking art responses in media and philosophy. And all the while it’s enjoyable to engage with subjects through the prism of Art. Pupils all too often are faced with a narrow curriculum. So their response to a poem for example, is to write a poem. But working with teachers, we have together delivered workshops where pupils are free to express their interpretation of a poem through visual Art. And here is the crunchy bit: we saw that pupils then began to verbalise and textual their feelings at a later stage!
Teachers, get your students to research different forms of Islamic Art.
Cross-curricular methods can also give a boost to other subjects, as pupils can see mathematics working, in symmetries of Islamic patterns, or science through exploring molecular patterns. We can really get pupils to be energetic and active by getting them to think outside the box. In school workshops, teachers often do point out to me pupils who normally don’t engage getting all excited with fresh new ways of playing with Art. I think we’re all creative and just need to find that zesty button to press inside our minds.