I was looking for an innovative way to create sculptures with my grade seven class. I knew they had tried clay before, and my budget at this stage of the year could not accommodate plaster.
Foam insulation blocks provided an exciting alternative. The 2-inch-thick sheets were inexpensive and easy to break up. Simply score them with a box-cutter, and then break off the desired pieces.
The students enjoyed karate-chopping the pieces into smaller sizes. They aligned the score-lines with the edge of a table and—“hi-ya!”—the foam broke into perfect clean-edged pieces. These 2-inch-thick blocks were available to students in sizes ranging from 4″ x 4″ up to 12″ x 12″.
WE THEN VIEWED MAGAZINE PICTURES of fossils in rocks. Students also searched for similar images using Google on their tablets.
They sketched ideas in their drawing journals, which they kept in view as reference while they carved. Their sketches showed views from all sides of the sculpture. Skeletal images and fish shapes proved most popular.
The softness of the foam allowed most students to carve it with their fingers, while others used scissors. For part of their designs, details such as wings, bones and fins were added using broken skewer sticks and scraps of construction paper.
I reminded them that the fossil should contrast with their “rock” or background surface, both in terms of texture and color. Also, reminders were given to ensure that all sides were carved, including bottoms, especially if final work was going to be mounted and visible on all sides.
ONCE THE CARVINGS WERE COMPLETE, students applied metallic paint to the surfaces, which provided rocky color options and really made the finished sculptures pop. Some students skewered their carvings then stuck the base into clay or broken-off chunks of foam, for a base support.
The finished sculptures were placed in a lit display cabinet, highlighting the metallic paints beautifully.
Middle school students will …
• learn about three-dimensional design.
• apply textural techniques.
• apply elements of line and shape to carvings.
• apply color techniques.
• understand the importance of perspective.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
• Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
• Foam insulation sheets (hardware or building supply store)
• Skewer sticks
• Construction paper scraps
• Metallic paints (or acrylics)
• Clay for base support
Gary Kohl teaches sixth- through eighth-grade art, along with eighth-grade drama, English and media, at Unionville Montessori School in Ontario, Canada.
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