Category Archives: Arts and Crafts
Thank you to Claire Holt for once more writing an amazing guest blog post! Fantastic ideas for incorporating art in middle school!
For enthusiastic students who are entering the fifth and sixth grades, life begins to shape itself in a myriad of fascinating ways as adolescents develop their sense of identity and nurture their ever-changing interests and attributes as the world opens before them. With so many possibilities awaiting and the desire to learn combined with the complex changes that begin to take place as they enter one of the most vital transitional phases of life, keeping the classroom open as an inclusive and dynamic space is essential. Engaging interest and cultivating critical thinking in preparation for the oncoming high school years is critical, and one of the best ways to do this is incorporate creative activities that are accessible and fun.
Here is where the humanities continue to play an important role, despite its reduced presence in the classroom over recent years due to cuts in public education. The core creative processes that drive innovative problem-solving skills as well as collaboration and a healthy venue for expression are essential for succeeding in today’s world, so it’s important to never take their value for granted. Through the discovery of music, art, and literature, individuals will find a unique outlet for their voice and incorporating them into the classroom – particularly art, and it can be included on a multi-disciplinary level.
Enhancing the Learning Experience through a Variety of Mediums
Art provides one of the most revealing mediums through which people can come to better understand the lives of their ancestors and the resonances of various events and beliefs throughout history. One of the most exciting and immersive ways to learn about past events and penetrate the “how”, “why”, as well as the “what” is to take a look through art textbooks at some of the vibrant mediums which artists used to portray the dynamic world around them. Featuring some of history’s most iconic works and inspiring the class to use similar techniques and create their own masterpieces will make this even more integrative – Medieval mosaics and coats of arms can be composed from construction paper, paint, and a little imagination, and can even be created online for a practice brainstorm. Small-scale models of ancient wonders can be made by using clay, cardboard, glue, popsicles, toothpicks, cloth, and paint etc. Building a bridge and testing its resilience by placing weights on it is one way to experiment with the basics of engineering as well as encourage peer participation and resourcefulness.
Finding Innovative Ways to Share Information
As well as discovering the many joys and complexities of art and architecture, teachers can generate interest in other creative fields which are found in the worlds of science, math, and information. As graphic design becomes the main medium by which facts and resources are delivered through the improvement of technological advances in media, experimenting with different ways to share this information is a vital skill for the growing generations. Using collages, colorful flow charts, diagrams, and 3 dimensional models – like a model of the solar system – draws on both visual and kinetic learning techniques, as well as transcending traditional methods of recording information.
Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda states that “Great science is about thinking out of the box. And art is way out of the box, and having that kind of influence improves both sides. Artists test the edges of how humanity is and can be, and scientists make it happen.” Suggesting that one of the best ways to improve education at the earlier levels would be to more effectively combine the art and science communities, Maeda follows the forward-thinking educators who are seeking to work with more interesting methods of instruction.
By handing over the gauntlet to the class so to speak, students are more motivated to try out their own ideas and methods and with some encouraging guidance can develop their talents. The learning process which is undertaken during every project is gift enough in itself, but getting to enjoy the finished product and competing in local events featuring students from other classrooms and schools is another excellent activity which inspires community involvement. Classrooms can even go the extra mile and learn the value of helping out others by painting murals for local libraries and other public spaces, and witnessing the importance of how art can transform a community.
With a little bit of creativity, students and teachers can create an environment where the level of learning is both enjoyable and memorable, and cultivate their potential for thinking outside of the box which will equip them for success in years to come.
Coming Up With Ideas
Some children struggle with art because they find it hard to come up with new, creative ideas. They look at a blank piece of paper, and all they can see is a blank piece of paper. Finding new ways to help these kids to unlock their creativity can ensure that they get to enjoy art class as much as everyone else. One of the reasons why art is so important in education is that it encourages students to express themselves and to come up with their own ideas. Giving the less artistic kids a little nudge of inspiration can help them all to become more inventive and imaginative. It can be particularly rewarding if you need to reach out to students with additional needs. Children who have ADHD or who are on the autistic spectrum can often surprise you with their dedication and creativity when you find the right subject or material for them to work with in an art lesson. The easiest way to make sure everyone can come up with a good idea is to plan a more directed art lesson, where you offer a particular source of inspiration or starting point for the class to work from, but you can also encourage more experimental creativity by helping your students to look at the world differently.
A good source of artistic ideas can come from linking your art class with a book that the kids have been reading, which can be a perfect opportunity to link in to the core curriculum for literacy, particularly when it comes to finding evidence in the text and understanding figurative language. Try getting them to draw a picture of a character or location from the story, thinking about what visual clues are provided by the book, and how much is left to the imagination, or ask them to draw both literal and figurative versions of things that have been described metaphorically.
A different way to inspire creativity is to encourage the children to find a new way of looking at the world. There are endless ways you can do this, but it can be as simple as getting your students to find a new perspective from which to look at the world, by turning upside down, looking at objects close up or through a mirror, or cutting out and decorating a picture frame that they can use to compose their pictures of a landscape or still life. If you thread string into a grid pattern across the frame, they can even use this as a tool to help them keep their drawing to scale. The grid technique can even tie in with math lessons and the core standards for understanding scale drawings, since it can be used to copy and resize pictures.
Techniques for the Less Artistic
Another issue for some children is that they simply lack the technical skill of some of their more naturally artistic peers, which can really damage their confidence. Introducing a variety of techniques can ensure that everyone gets the chance to express themselves, and it can also make teaching art easier for you, since you won’t have to be particularly artistic to demonstrate them.
1. Photography: taking photos can be the perfect way to allow kids who are less skilled with paints and pencils to learn about composition. If you can get your hands on a cheap, kid-friendly camera, this can also be a great homework or vacation assignment that you can use to get an insight into what is most important to each child. Ask them to come back with five or ten photos of people, places or objects that matter to them.
2. Computer Art: kids who might not come across as particularly artistic in more traditional art lessons can often be the ones who have the best computer skills. Allowing them to show you what they can do with computer drawing and painting tools can give them a big confidence boost.
3. Comic Book Art: a lot of artists start by copying other people’s work, and comic book art and cartoons use bold lines and bright colors, which can be easy for kids to copy and use to create their own stories.
4. Collage: this is the best medium for ensuring that every child gets the chance to do something creative, since it requires willingness to experiment more than technical skill, and it can make a great collaborative art project. You can provide a variety of materials yourself, but it can also be interesting to see what the kids will bring in if you let them collect extra material at home. Encouraging them to see everything as a potential piece of art can generate some really surprising effects.
5. Mosaics and Pointillism: if you want a slightly less messy lesson than collage making, then you might want to look at Roman mosaics or pointillism. This is an art history lesson that can easily merge into a practical art class. You can prepare plenty of little squares or circles of colored paper, like the remnants left over by a hole-punch, or get the kids to tear off tiny pieces for themselves, to glue down to create their own mosaics or dot pictures.
Report cards have gone home. Parent-teacher interviews are over and March Break is just 2 days away. Life is good!
At report card time, I always have my students do a self-assessment and I have them assess me and my teaching. One thing that a student said in the most recent assessment, was that we don’t do enough “art”. Fair enough. However, they all have an actual “Visual Arts” class – so don’t feel too badly for the poor art-deprived dears! It’s just that they want more!
Anyhow, we really don’t do much in the way of arts or crafts projects. So, I had a little peek online and I found a fun looking activity. The short version? Use Borax crystals to make a pretty ornament.
With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I thought – we’ll make crystalized shamrocks for decorations. I really can’t just do something fun without an actual “outcome related” purpose – it’s just not in me! This activity goes along with what students were studying on solutions in Science in their last unit and I also had them write a set of instructions for doing the activity – just in case someone from another class saw the ornaments and wanted to know how we did it. Got to get that purposeful writing in there!
Making a Crystalized Shamrock (or any other shape)
Form a shape with a pipecleaner – a shamrock, spiral – heart, snowflake…Some students may want a template to refer to….
Tie the ornament to a pencil so that you can suspend it in a jar
Add three cups of boiling water to 1/2 cup of Borax crystals
Stir to dissolve
Suspend your ornament in the solution, with the pencil across the top of your jar
Make sure that your shape isn’t touching the sides/bottom
Within 3 hours, crystals will start to form – leave overnight for best results!
The finished product is really cool – crystalized shamrocks!
How does it work? Basically, when you add the crystals to boiling water, more Borax is able to be dissolved creating a supersaturated solution. As the water cools, the molecules become unstable and the excess crystals separate from the water molecules and cling to the pipecleaner.
We had only one “dud” with this activity which was kind of a bummer! A teachable moment, though! Why didn’t Peter’s work? The students figured out pretty quickly that we must have put fewer crystals in his water and if it wasn’t supersaturated, there weren’t any crystals to be released from the water molecules upon cooling and so – no crystal ornament.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!