Thursday, January 20, 2011

The First Art Museum

I had the fortunate opportunity to work with Mrs. Debbie Downie at Clough Pike Elementary. Because Debbie is an expert at creating art environments, I wanted to learn all I could from her. I decided on a prehistoric theme for my unit.

The first graders made cave paintings.

We talked about Native Americans and cave dwellers and what kind of tools they would use. I brought in a burnt stick and showed the kids how it worked just like the charcoal we used on our paintings. Since the alphabet hadn't been invented yet, we told stories with Native American Symbols. We pretended the red paint was squished berries and the brown paint was mud. The kids had fun trying to "decode" each other's stories.

The second graders created 3D complimentary color dinosaurs.

I made large stencils of three different dinosaurs out of poster board for the students to choose and trace. After their dinosaurs were cut out, they then could choose a primary color piece of bulletin board paper to glue their dinosaur to, leaving a "pocket" big enough for their hand to fit through. Next, we talked about complimentary colors. The students had to come to me one at a time and tell me what color paint they needed. After the dinosaurs were dry, we added concentric shapes to them, again in the complimentary color. (Students learned about Kandinsky's concentric circles in a previous lesson, so this was review) We gave our dinosaurs imaginary names by adding "o-saurus" to the children's 1st name, (Mine was MissNewman-o-saurus) and we wrote them across the back of our dinosaurs. We used expert dinosaur stuffing tools, (the handle end of large paint brushes) and stuffed them with newspaper. After they were glued shut, we added google eyes for an extra touch of cuteness. The kids loved them hanging from the ceiling of the cave.

The third graders made pinch pot dinosaurs.

This was my favorite project. I underestimated how much ALL kids love dinosaurs. And look how much personality they all have! We started off with our dinosaur bodies. We revisited how to make pinch pots and learned how to slip and score. We put together two pinch pots to make the bodies and then we talked about what else our dinosaurs might need. A long neck to eat leaves? Spikes, clubs, or plates for defense? They were very creative. Their dinosaurs also had to have some kind of texture. Many kiln firings and dinosaur explosions later, we learned about monochromatic color schemes. The students had to choose one hue and create several shades or tints of that hue to paint their dinosaur with. We topped them off with google eyes and glitter gel gloss medium. Every age student who saw these little guys asked, "When are we making clay dinosaurs?"

The fourth graders made weavings and petroglyphs.

These took FOREVER to make. I couldn't believe how long it took the kids to weave, and neither could they. We learned about petroglyphs (rock art) and symbols. First, we made our weavings on cardboard looms. To make the petroglyphs, we carved our designs into styrofoam trays with pencils and then pressed the clay into the trays. We made holes in the top and bottom of our rock art, so that they could be hung later. We added some black paint in the cracks to make them look old and then we were ready to put them all together. We used raffia to tie the petroglyphs to real sticks, and then tied the weavings to the bottom of the petroglyphs. The students had the option to add beads and feathers to their piece. They may have taken longer than we expected, but the kids were very proud of them when they were finished.

The fifth graders made Navajo sand paintings.

We learned about Navajo sand paintings and ephemeral art. I gave the students a handout with their Native American zodiac signs. We used colored rice (white rice soaked in food coloring and rubbing alcohol) and birdseed instead of sand. (sand can scratch the floors and make for unpleasant conversations with the custodians) We used one color at a time, putting glue down, sprinkling the rice on, and shaking it off. Just like a glitter process. Even as fifth graders, the kids were amazed when their new shape was revealed.

To create the cave, we crinkled brown paper and covered the walls with it, using only tape. Lots and lots and lots of tape. We made a small fire using tissue paper and christmas lights, along with some leftover plaster bones and rocks from a previous project. We hung a class worth of 3D dinosaurs from the ceiling. Other projects hung on the wall, in the hallway, or set on the "rock" benches.

To have the big reveal of "The First Art Museum," we teamed up with the music teacher for a fine art night. The fourth graders had a holiday concert, so we had the cave opening the same night. The kids loved trying to find their work to show their friends and family as they were greeted by the cave women, Mrs. Downie and I.

Creating an art environment is a lot of work, but it was so worth it. The kids were astounded at the transformation of the foyer, and the principal insisted it be left up for the remainder of the week. I was so lucky to be working with such a great teacher for student teaching. I can't wait to have a school of my own to transform!

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