Aesthetics is for the Birds

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Area: Art
Grade Level: High School & Beyond, Middle School, Primary/Elementary School
Topics: art and aesthetics, What is Beauty?
Estimated Time Necessary: 2 - 4 hours. Can span multiple class meetings or be done in a single session

Lesson Plan

Defining what art is.
What do you consider to be art? Can anything be art? This lesson is aimed at garnering an understanding of what art is and how we conceptualize art. This can take many forms depending on the age of the students, but the objective remains the same.

leafonpebblesThis is a photo of leaves on rocks. One can look at the content, nature, or the photographic composition, artifice. The leaves and the rocks: The veins run through the dominant maple leaf, staining it deep green. They betray both its strength and fragility. The rocks offer a range of textures, shapes, commentary on the ephemeral leaves. The other leaves are curled, brown, past their “prime.” The leaves are temporary and we can imagine them blowing away into oblivion. The rocks remain. The photo: a composition in shape, texture, color. Conveying autumn, endings, but perhaps with a tinge of hope?

Rebecca Victoria Millsop has created an engaging project by inviting philosophers to choose a work of art and write in 100 words a commentary about it. Above is one entry but the site has many offered: Aesthetics is for the Birds.

Ask the students to bring in an example of anything that they consider to be art (visual, literary, music, reference to theater, dance, whatever.) They should have something to show as well as to speak about so in the case of music or theater, a recording or image from the play could suffice. Each student should also write in 100 words or less why they chose it and what the work means—to them or to others.

Create a gallery of all the contributions (images, or whatever is standing in for the work and their written piece) and have an “art walk” around the ‘gallery’ with each student speaking about their choice.

Depending upon the age of the students, you might direct them independently to Milsop’s site or you can choose an example (for younger students). Click on the “Discussion Questions” tab above for discussion prompts to consider.



Discussion Questions

  • Describe the work: what you see, hear, or, generically, 'notice' about it.
  • Does the work convey a message? A feeling?
  • Does everyone find the same or similar ideas/feelings in experiencing the artwork?
  • How important is it to know about the work and the artist before trying to speak about it?
  • Is the work beautiful? Why or why not?
  • Do you agree that the work is a work of art? Why or why not?


This lesson plan was created for PLATO by: Wendy C. Turgeon, St. Joseph's College, NY.

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

If you would like to change or adapt any of PLATO's work for public use, please feel free to contact us for permission at