India: Buddhism and Hinduism: Prompts for Extended Thinking

India: Buddhism and Hinduism: Prompts for Extended Thinking

Use these prompts after your Evans Distance Learning session or museum visit to activate creative, critical, and reflective thinking.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
South Asian Art
Subject Area:
Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, History and Social Science, Visual Arts
Activity Type:
Distance Learning

India: Buddhism and Hinduism: Prompts for Extended Thinking

Creative Thinking

Using our imaginations when looking at art can activate prior knowledge and spark curiosity. Ask students to recall their VMFA Distance Learning visit and try the following:

With a partner or in groups, consider this image of Shiva.  Use the following starters to think of some imaginative and interesting questions about this artwork.  Try to formulate a list of at least 6 interesting questions.

  • How would it be different if….?
    • For example, How would it be different if we were looking at it in a temple?
  • What if we knew…?
    • For example, What if we knew and could talk to the person who made it?
  • What are the reasons…?
    • For example, What are the reasons it is this size?

Share and exchange your questions with other groups in the class.  What is the class most curious about?  What is missing from your knowledge base? Can you use your list of questions to establish some search terms to help you find out more?

Critical Thinking

Looking closely at art helps us think historically and connect to cultures from the past.

During your Distance Learning visit, students practiced looking carefully to interpret what art can reveal about religious beliefs that developed in India.  From their classroom studies, they may know that Buddhism spread throughout South and East Asia via missionaries and trade. 

Below are several examples of Buddhist art from across Asia, including an Indian example.  Ask students to look carefully at these examples to build on their ideas about Buddhism.  How would they compare Buddhist art from India with that of the cultures who subsequently adopted the religion?  Use the Looking to Learn: I See / I Think / I Wonder strategy to help frame student inquiry.

Reflective Thinking

Thinking about our experience with art helps us connect to people and ideas across time and place. Use these prompts to help students reflect on their engagement with Indian Buddhist and Hindu art.

  • Having spent time with Indian Art at VMFA, what more do you know about imagery and the practice of Buddhism and Hinduism?
  • What did the art NOT answer for you? What are you curious about now that you have seen Buddhist and Hindu art from India? Name three things that you wish you knew more about and why. Visit your school library and databases to find answers to your questions.
  • Compare the art in your life (home, school, place of worship) to Buddhist and Hindu art from India. Consider materials used, presentation, audience, and intended use.