The indivisible connection of art, education and innovation

15 April marks the birthday of one of the most astonishing artists in history: Leonardo Da Vinci. Last year, UNESCO decided to proclaim this day "World Art Day", taking it as an opportunity to reinforce the importance of art in the world and promote its diffusion and development.

Even if we do not always realise it, art is everywhere. Art is behind every idea, every action, every movement. Art is the driving force of creativity, innovation and cultural diversity. Art is freedom of expression and it often creates bridges between cultures by enabling curiosity and encouraging dialogue.

"Creativity is contagious. Pass it on." – Albert Einstein

Art is also present in our school communities. It is the teacher's creativity what inspires students every day. Interconnected to other educational topics, art exists in many forms and has an undeniable impact on pupils. Teaching with and through arts can help students develop lifetime skills such as critical thinking, analytical skills, problem solving, curiosity to name a few. A more equitable and inclusive education system can be achieved if art and creativity are included in the learners' journey.

That is precisely the aim of Europeana, through its Digital Service Infrastructure (DSI) projects. A project that is in its fourth phase and that has been working in pursuit of integrating digital cultural heritage in the classroom for five years now. The broader goal of this inspiring project is to make art and cultural heritage more accessible to the 21st century societies. The digital era offers us plenty of opportunities for digital teaching and learning. The current Europeana DSI-4 project is taking these opportunities to bring the school community and society closer to arts, creativity processes and innovation.

Managed by Europeana Collections and in collaboration with European Schoolnet, this project shows us that cultural heritage and arts can be used not only to educate about History or Literature, but it can also support the teaching of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). In the Teaching with Europeana blog, teachers can share their experiences integrating Europeana resources into their classrooms, create and discover new learning scenarios and read their peers' stories of implementation.

Teachers can then nurture their students with all the innovative techniques acquired during this project. For example, they can use the original drawings of Leonardo da Vinci to understand the development of engineering techniques or use old press material to learn about the fight for women's rights. Each and every subject can be connected somehow to art and all the students, from pre-primary to vocational training, can benefit from having it implemented in their curricula.

On this creative day, Borbala Pocze, EUN´s Europeana project coordinator comments on how arts, education and innovation are linked.

Why do you think it is necessary to promote arts in today's digital education?

I believe that any subject needs some level of art to encourage students to cross the boundaries between traditional dichotomy of sciences and humanities. In addition to this, today it is widely known that learning through arts develops students' soft skills, which makes them much more employable later. If you do not believe me, ask the science teachers participating in the project!

How is Europeana DSI-4 contributing to that purpose?

In this phase of the Europeana project, together with the Europeana Foundation, we placed extra emphasis on making sure that science teachers also find useful resources on Europeana to work with during their teaching. The over 130 teachers involved in the project have developed useful STEAM learning scenarios, that can be found in the teach with Europeana blog!

What kind of activities can be developed with the project?

Any interested teacher can find a myriad of opportunities in Europeana. They can browse through more than 280 developed learning scenarios and more than 110 Stories of Implementation. They can also submit their own story of implementation on our blog if they decide to try out one of the learning scenarios. They can join the MOOCs, which besides being available in five languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian) and introducing the Europeana Collections, also support them if they want to develop their own learning scenario.