How Pinterest is Ruining Your Lessons

Pinterest is a teacher’s dream. It’s full of resources like lesson plans, handouts, and examples. They are all there for the choosing and so easy to sort and store. The problem is using them might just be destroying what makes art education valuable and unique.

In fact, Pinterest sucks for planning art lessons.

Pinterest is set up for copying of the most vapid sort. Vapid, because we scan for what looks the most appealing, what looks the prettiest. This is a good way to look for haircut ideas (guilty) but less than ideal for teaching visual fluency to the next generation.

Learning in art is not pretty and it does not match what’s going on in the next seat. It’s messy and complicated, just the sort of thing that can’t be captured in a “pin.” If you see an idea for your classroom that looks cute, quick, and easy, then it’s probably a waste of everyone’s time.

There are certain standbys in art education that we see again and again: birch trees, Monet’s bridge, Wayne Thiebaud pie slices, the plastic Chihuly replicas.

Chihuly sculptures on Pinterest

These, at one time, may have been good projects. But just like that song on the radio that’s played until you can’t stand it, they lose appeal each time they are recreated. At some point, they go from being creative homages to something less – something bright to hang on a wall or line up in your bakeshop-themed display case.

When do art projects become assembly instead of creation?

pie slice projects

My guess is it’s somewhere between the tenth and the 500th time someone copies the same lesson off of Pinterest.

For me, the power and purpose of these too-often replicated works get fainter each time we see them. Where is the joy of creation, the self-expression, the exploration of media? We’ve lost sight of the forest through all the birch trees.

birch tree lessons

If you think so too, put down Pinterest and go to an art museum, check out This is Colossal for ideas, or set up some centers. Develop new ways for students to experience the beauty and complexity that art has to offer instead of copying the same lesson off of Pinterest that everyone else is. We’re the creative ones, remember?

What are your thoughts on Pinterest?

Do you love it, hate it or fall somewhere in between?

Melissa Purtee

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Melissa teaches at Apex High School in North Carolina and is the author of The Open Art Room. She’s passionate about supporting diversity, student choice, and facilitating authentic expression.

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