The education landscape was changing with the new Australian Curriculum. By teaming up as co-authors from different states, we could offer a text that covered the whole country, as we had all been experienced teachers and worked professionally in the arts.

Wherever we are in society, we are surrounded by the arts. This text has been designed by artists, and the words you read are like visual artworks representing the oral storytelling foundation of all societies.

Its layout was designed by artists, using multiple media forms. You will read it in an environment where the soundscape will hopefully allow you to concentrate. Your body is probably positioned to minimise discomfort and maximise efficiency, while communicating to all those around you your current state of thought (whether consciously or not).

Surrounding you may be posters, objects, noises, people interacting with facial expressions, some perhaps communicating on Facebook and its graphic interface using new technologies.

The arts power our lives, yet too often we power down children as they enter formal education (preschool and upwards), stifle their natural forms of communication and interaction, and slowly destroy their ability to be creative and to think diversely.

Teaching the Arts: Early childhood and primary education (2019) is a book born out of the requests of children and teachers. It aims to demonstrate the power of each of the five art forms in the Australian Curriculum as a discrete source of knowledge, and also as a pedagogical tool to access other Learning Areas. 

This text is divided into three distinct areas of educational development: why the arts (the purpose and the past); the Arts Learning Areas (the knowledge, the skills and the present); and embedding the arts (the application and the future). In each chapter, we have tried to model good teaching practice by offering a knowledge download, practical activities, opportunities to demonstrate understanding, methodologies of application - and we unpack their significance.

 For early childhood and primary educators, the issue is not so much about when we should engage with the arts, but more when we should not.

All the arts have this power to surprise. How can we separate the arts from each other, let alone divide them into separate Learning Areas? In a world where there are developing crises concerning the environment, energy, human resources and basic foods, and fundamental political polarisations regarding these, even in established societies, can we ignore the arts and the creativity they cultivate?

Someone has to find new ways to create sustainable resource applications; ways to engage our society and bridge the equity gaps in all areas.

This won’t happen unless the next generation embraces creative ways of thinking.

As a human race we can’t survive without the arts; therefore, we must be confident in passing on their power to the next generation.

Indeed, as drama is often about the transformation of the individual into the ‘other’ to explore aspects of the human condition, there can be no question that the role transformation plays in the lives of all schoolchildren needs to be identified and explored. Eisner, for one, used the arts in education as a focus for this.

When coupled with the idea of the arts as a social, anthropological or ethnographic study, their value children is apparent.

The use of the arts within the classroom gives children the freedom to explore and establish their identities in their childhood years, thus fulfilling the purposes of schooling on multiple levels.

This both meets curricular needs and addresses the wider ‘hidden curriculum’ of creating individuals with skills to better embrace society.