Revolutionary War Retablos

This was one of my favorite projects that we have done with 5th grade so far. It took a long time, but I feel that they put a lot of good work into it.
So here goes, we build Retablos, which are small dioramas or panels that usually hold altar peices or information about other important events. They are mostly made by people in Peru.
So, around Thanksgiving time, I asked all of the 5th grade students to start collecting small boxes, about the size of a mini cereal box, jello box, or a bar of soap-box. Then when we had enough for one for each student, we started building.
First, you need to tape up all of the openings of the box with masking tape and then cut two doors out of the "front". After it is open, tape the manufacturers' openings again from the inside to make sure the walls are strong. And if you like, you can add some heavy card-stock to the top of the box to create a nice facade, and cover then entire thing in a layer of masking tape. This reinforces it and also creates a surface that the paint will stick to better than the glossy surface of the box:

Then, the entire box, inside and out needs a coat of gesso. We were on a budget, so we just used white paint. (This student chose not to put a facade on top of his retablo.)

Next, each student was assigned a different significant event from the Revolutionary War. They planned and designed the inside and outside of their boxes. For the figures, we used sculpie clay, which needs to be baked at about 275 degrees for 15 min in an oven. Toaster ovens get hot enough for this, so I ran over to the DI and picked one up for a couple bucks so we could bake them in class.

After everything was baked, it was painted and hot glued into the boxes. The kids loved this project!

The Signing of the Declaration of Independence:

George Washington Crossing the Delaware:

Battle of Bunker Hill:

Paul Revier's Midnight Ride:

Cave Art

This lesson was perfect for my first grade classes because over half of the students are in the French immersion program. AND some of the earliest known cave art is in France in the Lascaux Caves.
SO, we looked at some of the images from the caves and talked about how they drew their animals using simple lines and shapes.
Then each child was given a small piece of brown paper (cut from garbage bags) and oil pastels to draw their animals. Lastly, they crumpled the paper to make it look more like a cave wall.

One of my favorite parts of this whole art program is the chance that students have to connect what they learn in the art room and their regular classroom, and for this project, they went back and got to write about their pictures.


Kindergarten Memory Quilts

This was a really fun project for me and also for the students. They talked about Faith Ringgold with their classroom teachers before coming to class and I think they even got to read the book "Tar Beach". Wonderful book.
Each of the students were given a large square paper with a large square drawn in the center. Then we had them each draw a memory in the middle square. We encouraged them to draw only what they remembered and to fill the entire space with their drawing. Then we cut and glued colored paper around the edge and added drawn patterns and stitches to make it quilt-like.
Other final touches included yarn on the corners and writing about their memories.

4th grade Personal Mandalas

I have taught a lot of lessons about mandalas to different ages. I first learned about them when I was in 7th grade, but never really realized how great they were until I was in college. This was one of my favorite lessons the I have ever taught about them and I was very pleased by the final products--especially because I wasn't here to finish them with the students.

I first gave them an assignment to think about the situation the pioneers had been in when they had to pack up everything important to them in a small wagon and leave home with their families never to return. (4th grade and UT history, gotta love it!) I asked them what they would feel like if they had to go through that and to consider what they would take with them if space was limited and all necessities like food, shelter...etc were taken care of by their parents. They needed to make a list of 5 things and decide which was the most important one.

Next, we filled out a worksheet to help them learn about mandalas, come up with some thumbnail sketches, symbols for their 5 things, and then to combine them all in a rough draft. For the final draft, we used compasses and rulers to make them look really nice and draw them on watercolor paper in pencil, then sharpie and then used watercolor pencils. I was so pleased when I returned from maternity leave to see these:

I realize now looking back that this project was a little hypocritical as far as mandalas go. In my attempt to have my students reflect on what was important to them, I am afraid that it backfired and sort of came off as very materialistic. So, woops! :)

2nd Grade African Masks

I don't know how much explanation these need. We talked about how African cultures use masks for dancing and other social rituals, and how they use bright color.
To make the masks, each student had a 12"x12" piece of thin cardboard, kind of the same stuff that cake boxes are made out of. I have a huge box of hundreds of pieces of this cardboard in my room and it is wonderful! I wish I knew where it came from.

Anyway, each of us cut either one or two narrow triangles about 3" long out of the bottom of the cardboard. Next, we taped the sides of the cardboard together to fill in the missing triangle. This creates a pucker and makes the mask become 3 dimensional...I wish I had a better way to explain that...

We then cut away at the cardboard to shape the masks and covered them with colored paper. We even had some left over painted paper from other projects and that seemed to add a lot of really great texture to the masks as well. We focused on using multiple layers of paper to create dept in the faces.

I loved the way they turned out. Forgive me if I post a ton of pictures, we have 100 2nd graders and there were just too many not to post a lot!

Marc Chagall inspired worlds

With first and second grade we talked about what "surrealism" means. Often artists create worlds in their artwork that mix reality with fantasy, and end up with something that would never happen. (Think Dahli's melting clock.)
We talked about Marc Chagall and this painting:

and then each student drew a round horizon line with a realistic place from their life. Then we turned the paper upside down and drew a fantasy land. We colored them with watercolor pencils and then added a little water. Last, we took sharpies and retraced the drawings. I love the vibrant colors, don't you?

Each of these are first grader's work.


It has officially been installed above the crib. So exciting! This might actually motivate me to ween Lynlee from sleeping in her swing to the crib...


Airplane Mobile

Tomorrow is my last day of maternity leave. It has been wonderful and gone by too quickly. As much as I would love to stay home forever and ever I know that returning to school is something that I must do. Luckily, for now, it is only for 4 weeks, then spring break, and then another 6 weeks after that before summer vacation.

So, needless to say, my mind and energy has been places other than my student's artwork lately. And that's how it should be. But that does not mean I have put my creative juices on hold.

I wanted to make something for Lynlee. Something that she could look at and think of her mommy and her daddy. I started this project during my "nesting" stage of pregnancy and finally finished it today. I hope it inspires our little girl to fly high, in the clouds.

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