Finding Passion in Learning

In conversation with Steve Seidel and Cristina Pato

April 26, 2016

“Learning just about anything that really matters is hard work, and you have to be inspired to do it,” says Steve Seidel, director of the Arts in Education Program at Harvard Graduate School of Education. “But all too often, learning in school is far from inspiring. We need to bring something into the classroom that engages students and inspires them to ask the questions they want to answer.”

This challenge has motivated Silkroad’s five-year collaboration with the Graduate School of Education on the Arts and Passion-Driven Learning Institute, a professional development program for teachers. It is also fundamental to all of Silkroad’s work with students and teachers, from a remote middle school on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana to classrooms in New York City and Boston.

Silkroad Founder and Artistic Director Yo-Yo Ma explains that “If you get kids interested and connected, they’re going to do well in school because everything else falls into place. But the thing is to get that spark.”

Art is a powerful way to generate that spark, Steve suggests, precisely because it is difficult. “When artists teach, they bring their students into the deep complexities of works of art and artistic processes. Whether it’s music, dance, or painting, learning in the arts is tremendously challenging, so it has to be fueled by something powerful. You have to be inspired and hungry for that thing.”

Steve’s goal is to find that hunger and motivation in a student and turn it towards learning of all kinds, creating structures that promote not only learning the arts, but learning through and with the arts.

Earlier this month, he sat down with Silkroad artist Cristina Pato to talk about her experiences as an artist, educator, and passion-driven learner. Listen to their conversation:


You can join Steve, Cristina, and the rest of our faculty members at the Arts and Passion-Driven Institute August 1-3. This year we’ll be exploring the role of listening — to sounds, words, meaning, emotion, and to each other — in learning. Apply now.

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