Article 8 of 10
by Debi West
Students love to build “in the round” sculptures where they can be seen from every side, but it’s often a complicated concept.
First of all, are students ready to be challenged to think spatially and consider all sides of their sculpture? What media will you use to ensure student success? And, perhaps most important, where in the world are you going to store all of the artwork?
There’s a lot to think about, but when we’re teaching students about the wonderful world of 3D art, “in the round” sculpture-making is an important process to learn. I think you and your students will love this chopstick sculpture lesson.
I HAVE TO ADMIT, WHEN I FIRST SAW THIS LESSON, I was not impressed. The teacher I was observing was having students design realistic imagery out of the chopsticks and then paint them using acrylic paint and honestly, they were a hot mess. The craftsmanship was sloppy, the cutting of the sticks was complicated because students weren’t given the right tools and the paint was horrible and very childlike.
The final sculptures weren’t at a high school level, and if we are giving students art lessons that aren’t garnering at least a 90-percent success rate, then we really need to ask ourselves why we are teaching the lesson. But there was something there that had me intrigued.
So I did a bit of research and realized that by changing the lesson in a few ways, kids would continue to be engaged and excited, but now they would end up with a fabulous and sophisticated artwork! I’m all about process, but I think it’s important when students complete a project, that they are authentically excited about their final piece. I want my students to be proud of their hard work and this is a lesson that pulls all of that together. Let’s take a closer look.
I START OFF BY GIVING KIDS CHOPSTICKS, I mean A LOT of chopsticks! I have found that the more they have to experiment with, the better, so I purchase large boxes of bulk chopsticks containing 5,000 per box! That’s a lot of chopsticks for sure, so kids have access to grabbing as many as they think they will need.
On day one, they experiment with the chopsticks, laying them on top of each other and seeing how they “move” and sit. They have wire-cutting tools that aid them in neatly cutting the chopsticks to create a variety of sizes.
They really enjoy this experience because they are free to play and, while they are playing, they’re learning! They take photos of the designs that work the best and, the next day, they come in and begin building again, but this time with glue.
WE USE WOOD GLUE AND HOT GLUE guns, which are set up in stations around the room and in the art hallway. With 34 students per class, it’s important that they have access to plenty of glue guns because often, these sculptures end up pretty large. I highly recommend extension cords and power plugs.
As students are building, they are understanding balance, rhythm and movement through the lines of the chopsticks. I even have them sketch some of their designs and thoughts on where the final piece will end up.
When they are all completed, we take the sculptures outside and lay them on a large piece of butcher paper. The kids then spray them with gold or black spray paint … and sometimes a little bit of both! They end up absolutely amazing!
While my photographs do not do them justice, these sculptures become beautiful pieces of art that were created using design concepts and the freedom to create. Students are thrilled that they were encouraged to think like an artist!
Next up in the May issue … Indoor Sculpture Garden!
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Debi West recently retired from her job as department chair and art educator at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia. She owns and operates WESTpectations Educational Consulting. She and her husband now reside in Hilton Head, South Carolina.