The art room is certainly the right place for learning artistic skills, such as manipulation of a variety of media or how to use the elements of art, but it is also a prime location for students to develop social skills: the communication, problem-solving and self-management skills necessary for a student to maintain positive social relationships with others.
I believe that the creation of collaborative art projects in the art classroom fosters the development of both crucial art skills and essential social skills for students, especially at the elementary level.
A parent replaced the windows in her home and donated the old, wooden ones to my art classroom. I immediately saw an opportunity for my students to participate in a large-scale collaborative project. Approximately 150 students, ranging from second to fifth-grade, worked on this piece.
The fifth-graders worked with partners to measure the windowpanes and cut watercolor paper to fit. Next, they drew large flowers with a pencil, traced with a black permanent marker, and cut the paper into fourths, so that each fourth of a piece of paper contained one fourth of a flower with the center in the corner.
The second- and third-graders then worked in teams to draw patterns in the flower sections with construction-paper crayons, then used magenta, lime green, and turquoise liquid watercolors as a wash on top of the crayons.
The fourth-graders assembled the flowers on black and white fabric. They glued the flowers together like a puzzle with a circle of the black and white fabric in the center. Instead of matching the flowers back to their original pieces, though, they mismatched them to create a more abstract effect. They also painted the frame of the window with acrylics and cleaned the glass panes.
Throughout this process, students used what they had already learned about the elements of art, and used manipulative skills such as measuring, cutting, gluing, and holding drawing tools. Equally as important, students were able to practice social skills as they communicated and problem-solved with each other about the work.
When the project was completed, it was permanently hung in one of the school’s hallways. Students are able to take pride in this piece every time they pass through. This also fosters the social skills of taking ownership of one’s work and giving back to the community. I believe this was also a factor in the high level of engagement for students throughout the creative process.
As assessment, students were allowed to share with partners what aspects of the piece were the most visually pleasing, what surprised them the most, what they were thinking as they worked, and what overall lessons they learned.
Cutting the flowers into pieces and mixing them up added a unique and interesting feel to the piece.
By Amanda Koonlaba is the visual arts educator in Tupelo, Miss. She teaches over 550 second- through fifth-graders each year.
Elementary students will…
• demonstrate understanding of the elements of art.
• collaborate with peers to create a work of art.
• reflect upon artistic processes.
National Art Standards
• Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
• Presenting: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.
• Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
• Window or frame
• Black and white printed fabric
• Pencils, black permanent markers, construction-paper crayons
• Watercolor paper
• Scissors, glue, rulers
• Liquid watercolors, acrylic paint, paintbrushes