I used to live next door to an amazing artist, Alexis Wilson Russell, a vibrant painter and committed Christian. Her Cherokee husband (now deceased), was a preacher of the Gosepl of Jesus, and, together, they had ministered in many nations of the world—before ending up as my neighbors! Here is a photo of their tiny dining room, displaying an artist's love of color, texture, and visual interest.
Many years ago, we accompanied Alexis and Rod to a Native American gathering in South Dakota, which to my wondering eyes was a brilliant tapestry of culture, color and sound. As we were leaving, Alexis spotted a Native woman's spectacular regalia, and ran to ask permission to take a photo in order to paint it. I remember watching Alexis paint this glorious painting, and yet, as an absolute novice when it comes to all things artistic, I still have no idea how she was able to recreate this. Here is the final result—a detailed, vibrant depiction of beauty, color and Native culture that still takes my breath away.
How can anyone do this??
Well, my friends, for those gifted in Spatial Intelligence—whether expressed in painting, architecture, flower arranging, sculpture, or Lego masterpieces—working with color and design is the joyous stuff of life! (The following is excerpted from my book, Reaping the Harvest.)
This intelligence could be described as being "Picture Smart." People who are strong in this ability tend to think in pictures rather than in words. They can visualize solutions to problems, can see the answers to questions, and can understand the dimensions of a possible scenario. They are brilliant when it comes to using maps, drawing diagrams, designing landscapes, loading cars, painting three-dimensional masterpieces, and more. They have a grasp of the foundational architecture and artistry of the space that surrounds us. Painters, architects, landscape designers, interior decorators, web designers, traffic engineers, design teams who create new styles for cars and trucks, map makers, draftsmen, sculptors, cabinet makers, and more all display the wonderful gift of this intelligence.
If you or your children are strong in this intelligence, then come to grips with the fact that, somewhere in your house, a place needs to be set aside for art projects. Yes, it will be messy at times. But that is a very small price to pay for opening the door for these kinds of learners!
Provide opportunities and encouragement (perhaps even lessons!) in drawing and painting. For an at-home approach to teaching art, check out the curriculum of Artistic Pursuits.
Legos and other three-dimensional materials allow students to work with another aspect of Spatial intelligence, giving opportunities for exploring space and design.
Encourage students to follow their interests in garden design or interior decorating—playing with color and texture—even if on a very small scale.
Photography, graphic design, PowerPoint, craft projects, cake decorating. . .all fall within this intelligence. So have fun, make a mess, and watch your—or your child's—genius blossom!!
Remember, stay relational.
P.S. For students using my History Revealed curriculum, there are constant opportunites, often using humor, to express what is being learned through the Spatial Intelligence. Here's just one example, from Unit 2—Missionaries & Barbarians—Romans, Reformers, Revolutionaries:
Design an advertisement to enlist "The Few, the Brave, the Godly" to share in Brendan the Navigator's adventures as he sails west into uncharted seas.