Aesthetic Education in the Early Years: Exploring Familiar and Unfamiliar Personal-Cultural Landscapes

Document Type


Publication Date


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



This article explores a double-bind in early schooling: a persistent value placed upon presenting multicultural art forms to a child constructed as incapable of grasping what is not familiar. The author argues that this bind is situated within dominant developmental discourses that emphasize the appropriateness of concrete and sequential activities and within dominant school art discourses that have constructed early school art as ‘process over product’ and that have understood culture as heritage. Suggesting that all novices — adults and children — make meaning from complex cultural values intertwined with the arts in some similar ways, she presents a description of a personal encounter with a Japanese tea garden and ceremony in order to (a) explore notions of art, development, and school art as cultural sensibilities, and (b) illustrate a cyclical process of direct perception, personal-contextual meaning-making, and discursive analysis. She concludes by arguing that encounters with the unfamiliar present unrealized educative possibilities for aesthetic experience in early schooling and by discussing new directions for an aesthetic early childhood education.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, v. 13, issue 1, p. 50-62