Aesthetics is for the Birds

Posted by: Wendy C. Turgeon - Aesthetics is for the Birds
Designed for: Lower School, Middle School
Topics Covered: Aesthetics, What is Beauty?
Estimated Time Necessary: 2 - 4hrs, can span across multiple class meetings or be done in a single session
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Learning Objectives

  • 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.

Tool Text

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). Consider the following discussion prompts:

Aesthetics is for the Birds

Have Your Class Watch This Video

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

Resources for Further Study
  • Aesthetic is for the Birds - Aesthetic is for the Birds is a repository of blog articles on the subject of Aesthetics, Form vs Function, etc. Rebecca Victoria Millsop has created this engaging project by inviting philosophers to choose a work of art and write in 100 words a commentary about it.