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A&A: It Works! | Arts & Activities
Jun 2015

A&A: It Works!

A&A: It Works!


Reproduced from Arts & Activities May 2003 issue.

The “It Works!” call was sounded last June and, wow, did our readers respond! From across the nation testimonials poured in, warming our hearts and providing visual proof that what we do here at Arts & Activities is worthwhile indeed. The only regrettable part of the “It Works!” program is that we don’t have enough space to publish them all. Seeing Arts & Activities in action was a great way to celebrate our 70th year of publication.

As a bonus, the original articles that inspired the following “It Works!” accounts are available right here on our Web site. Scroll down to find the title of a particular inspirational Arts & Activities article. Then, simply click on the article download link and the article will download to your computer for you to read and use in your art room. A wealth of ideas and success await you.

— Maryellen Bridge, Editor in Chief

Designing the Matwork on Your Art… or the Artwork on Your Mat”
by Rubin Steinberg, March 1999


Usually I get ideas from articles in Arts & Activities and then take them in my own, original direction. But this project was so unique that I tried it just the way it was! I loved the idea of the composition running off onto the mat using a whole new media. Since metal was primarily used to create art in ancient cultures, due to its ability to be etched and manipulated easily, I had bought some aluminum and brass tooling metal to try to tie into the sixth-grade social-studies unit on ancient civilizations.

Even though this project was designed for high-school students, I felt my students could handle it. They experimented with line designs and patterns, adding texture on either side of the metal piece, resulting in beautiful compositions. The pieces looked too shiny to me, so we coated them with India ink which, when dry, was polished off with fine steel wool. Some students left only a little of the black, which gave definition to their line designs, and others left more of the black, for an antique look. Using colored pencils, they continued their line patterns onto the black poster-board mats. The results were spectacular, and I felt that I had improved on the original project by adding the black ink, which created contrast and depth.

Submitted by Jan Navah,
Wise Temple Elementary School, Los Angeles, Calif.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Close To Mosaic Drawings,” by Paul Zabos, September 2002


This article attracted my attention initially because I always do an involved pen-and-ink project with my high school Art I students. Also, I have taught beginning art students how to use a grid in their sketching. Bringing these two ideas together in one project was something I had never considered before. What made it unique and inspiring for the students was learning about the artworks of Chuck Close and the computer-inspired photo collages of contemporary artists such as Robert Silvers. Students watched and discussed portions of a movie on Chuck Close. We looked up his work, as well as the work of several photo-collage artists on the Internet. This project challenged students to look at each square of the grid as a tiny composition of tones and textures and not focus on the sometimes overwhelming “bigger picture.” Since many of the photos they used did not photocopy into one uniform size, I instructed the students to opt for imaginative border squares of contrasting patterns and simple designs to frame their main image. My students had a tremendous amount of success with this project and, consequently, it was a great boost to their confidence as beginners. Thank you for your great articles!

Submitted by Sharon Wall,
Altoona Area High School, Altoona, Pa.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Fall Into Autumn,” by Geri Greenman, September 1999


After reading your magazine early one fall, I was greatly inspired. What followed was a watercolor-painting and color-theory lesson based on nature’s fall colors. I originally created this lesson in 1999, and reintroduced it this past year, producing an even greater color sense and awareness in my students.

Autumn is a season that is especially exciting for artists, with the colors and sounds of the leaves playing nature’s symphony. The ever-changing color palette can be easily seen outside the art-room window.

Learning the beautiful art of watercolor painting, my students created fluid compositions through the use of repetition of shapes, overlapping and touching of leaves to create unity and visual rhythm in their compositions. They experimented with watercolor wash and painting wet-on-wet.

To further appreciate the season, some students composed poetry, which enveloped around the flowing leaves of their paintings, enhancing the choreography of their paintings. I displayed the completed works right outside my doorway, where students and staff could share the beauty of the season’s fleeting foliage.

Submitted by Lori Langsner, Barnes
Intermediate School, Staten Island, N.Y.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Developing Images on Clay… A New Approach,” by Harriet Gamble, December 1999


To say I was “fired up” to try this idea seems very appropriate! The article was thorough and serviceable, so that I made only a few modifications. Besides dinner plates to be used as “molds” or support forms, my Art I students and I found serving dishes and trays in other shapes, too. Another adaptation was to use the additive as well as the subtractive method. Besides incising the clay, we used scoring and slip to add thin coils and slabs. This created more levels and added even more depth to the pieces. My “rookies” depicted scenes from the jungle, desert, farm and more. They were positively engaged throughout this compelling clay project.

Submitted by Paula Guhin,
Central High School, Aberdeen, S.D. (retired)

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Master Pieces: Picasso Collage,” by Marcia Gibson, October 2002


For Halloween, 2002, we decided to dress up as famous paintings and use our costumes as the focus of our art lessons. We chose the work of artist Pablo Picasso, as we felt his portraits made interesting Halloween costumes. The Picasso collage lesson was the perfect stepping stone for us. Not only did the children get a kick out of our costumes, but they learned about the unique abstract style of this great artist.

Submitted by Jane Graham and Lee Massey,
The Stanwich School, Greenwich, Conn.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Pass the Salt, Please,” by Monica Bishara, October 1992



This has to be the most consistently successful project that I have taught. Students who don’t always feel good about their art, smile with the results. I have taught this in fourth grade to students who have little experience with watercolor. It gives them a positive start with the medium so that they are ready to try more.

We basically do the painting process the same. However, we do not use scissors, but tear all of our strips. The students are told to keep the strips in order, like puzzle pieces. Then they experiment with overlapping or stretching the pieces out with a little space in between. When a pleasing arrangement is found, the pieces are glued in place onto a clean white paper. The final part of the lesson is a discussion of titles. Students must come up with a “poetic” title that appropriately describes their artwork!

Submitted by Donna Staten,
Kennedy-Powell Elementary School, Temple, Texas.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Trompe L’oeil in the Loo,” by Ted Barlag, June/Summer 2001

After reading the article I thought this would be a great project for my Art III students. Our 30-year-old high school was built with an open school plan, having no inside classroom walls or outside windows. We needed some artwork, and the idea of having art students paint windows on the walls in the bathrooms sounded great—schools always have complaints about how the bathrooms were not being kept clean, and our school was no different. Hopefully, the student body would realize people cared about them and keep the restrooms cleaner once pictures were displayed on the walls.

Money was needed to buy boards for students to paint designs on during class, because wet paint couldn’t be left on the restroom walls. I applied and was awarded a Washington Post Grant in the Arts, which provided the money to buy the finished plywood boards and the polyurethane to protect the paintings. I gave credit to Arts & Activities and Ted Barlag for the idea. The title used for the grant application was the same, along with use of open window scenes.

My Art III class chose mainly landscape pictures from famous Impressionist artists to copy. The students wrote about the artist and picture that they chose and scanned the original artist painting. This information was later added to the wall next to the painting. The teachers, artists and student body love the artwork and the restrooms have indeed been cleaner. Thanks for these great ideas!

Submitted by Cheryl Saggers,
Woodbridge Senior High School, Woodbridge, Va.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Figurative Departures from Realism,” by Geri Greenman, October 2002


Wow, what an inspirational lesson! What a great lesson to help start the year…mixed media, abstraction, dark and light values, proportions and cropping. I knew my eighth-graders would love this. I was a little apprehensive at first as figure drawing at this level can be a little intimidating. Once we started I set a few guidelines, draw big, then bigger, and no facial features (that would come in later lessons). After a couple days of figure drawing on 9″ x 12″ manila paper, students selected their largest drawing to enhance with watercolors and conté crayon. This change from the original lesson led students to cut out and mount their paintings on water-colored newspaper. The final results were outstanding, and even award-winning in a student show sponsored by the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art. The goal is always to reach every child and Arts & Activities is helping to raise the standard. Special thanks to Geri Greenman, whose lesson really worked for my students.

Submitted by Joyce Slack,
Young Middle School, Pembroke Pines, Fla.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Cardboard Loom Weaving,” by Cynthia Cox Farris, December 2001


13bThis article inspired me to try a weaving project with my fourth graders. I liked the way the photos in the article showed different techniques, rather than the boring striped patterns so often found on children’s weaving projects. I decided to start students off with the simple stripes and, each week, introduce them to a new technique based on a sample of weaving from another culture. For a period of four weeks, they examined weaving techniques and samples from American Indian (diagonal), African (small squares of color), and Guatemalan (leaving warp threads showing) cultures. Students were encouraged to try a little of each new technique, as well as considering color and texture. They used their creativity and new-found knowledge to make each weaving unique.

I then took advantage of their weaving experience to use their finished tapestries as inspiration for a new project. I explained that many artists, such as Pablo Picasso, used an original work of art as inspiration for another piece in a different medium. Picasso’s paintings and ceramic pieces share many similar images and colors. Students experimented with an assortment of media choices: watercolor paints and crayons, markers, chalk and oil pastels on light and dark backgrounds. The results were as vivid and unique as the original weavings, yet had a completely different look and feel.

Submitted by Jan Navah,
Wise Temple Elementary School, Los Angeles, Calif.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Looking at Faces from a New Angle,” by Mary McNamara Mulkey, March 2000


I used this project as part of my Pablo Picasso unit with fourth- and fifth-graders. We talked about Picasso’s abstract style and then created our cubistic “crazy” faces. I emphasize to my students that the faces can be ?any way you want.? In the article, the teacher used markers. With my students, we first drew our images in pencil on 12″ x 18″ paper. Then we traced with a black marker. We used oil pastels to color, and went over our black lines with black oil pastel. My students LOVE this project, love learning about Picasso, and I love the outcome!

Submitted by Jeannette Smith Anthos,
House Elementary School, Conyers, Ga.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Self-Portrait Sculpture,” by Geri Greenman, May 2002


I tried out this sculpture assignment with my fourth-graders. Besides the figures themselves, what really intrigued me was the environment the students had created for them. Instead of making a self-portrait, however, I asked my students to think about what they would like to be when they entered the career world. I got diverse answers ranging from an architect to a pop star (above). The children sketched their ideas and modeled them according to the instructions in the article. Then it was time for them to think of props to use with their figures. The children raided their junk boxes at home and came up with surprising results. All the sculptures were assembled on a wood or cardboard base, and the children proudly displayed their work in the art room.

Submitted by Purnima Sampat,
Mumbai, India.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Falling for Clay Leaves,” by Christine Kernan, October 2002


This project was an incredible success with my second-grade art classes. I only amended the lesson a few times. To save time I collected a variety of leaves in the morning. Instead of laying the clay leaves inside the bowls, we laid them on top of oiled Styrofoam® bowls. This allowed the student to carve his or her name and class on the back of the leaf project. For extra color the children used Crystalex glazes. This added a dramatic touch to the final product. The students loved their projects!

Submitted by Ivey Coleman,
South Columbia Elementary School, Martinez, Ga.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Faces for a Basis,” by Caroline Schwarting Smith, October 1997

My fifth-grade students have great success with this project, and the results receive unbelievable comments. I introduce it as a portrait collage rather than a mask-making project. I search through many “star” magazines for good photos and make copies. Each student chooses a favorite to “collage.” We follow the same steps of tearing and applying paper pieces, but in a realistic manner. It is a very tedious project and takes a lot of patience. When the portrait collages are hanging in our school art gallery, Princess Diana, Oprah and Harry Potter are easy to recognize!

Submitted by Donna Staten,
Kennedy-Powell Elementary School, Temple, Texas.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Sadie-Sadie and Dashing Dan,” by Susan Kropa, November 1983

5A 5b

Twenty-three years ago when I began my career as an art teacher, Arts & Activities saved my life. I dug through old issues and eagerly awaited new issues to find fresh ideas that aligned with my curriculum. I am still a loyal subscriber and revisit my old issues. In the November 1983 issue—the most worn magazine I own—is an article that includes two poems that reinforce the use of pattern in art.

My first-graders study pattern in math. These rhymes connect our lesson to their math class and bring the learning to life. We begin the lesson by defining, reviewing and brainstorming patterns. We make large charts of line and shape patterns. I then read the Dashing Dan and Sadie-Sadie poems to my students, followed by a question-and-answer trivia game to see what they remembered. We review figure-drawing proportions and develop an outline of a figure.

The next class period we reread the poems and begin adding pattern to the costume designs with marker. The total lesson takes several class periods and I recite the poems to motivate my young artists many times throughout the lesson. I start omitting the last word of each line for the students to fill in. Eventually, I say one line, they say the next, and we alternate throughout the poem. I catch the children on the playground and at lunch reciting Sadie-Sadie and Dashing Dan. We even develop hand motions!

After the Sadie or Dan figures are complete, we add a horizon line and talk about perspective, examining prints and how some famous artists have used perspective to create great distances in their works. I challenge the students to add small details far away and large details up close. Finally, we add color with crayon and a layer of glitter paint to add pizzazz to our Patternland.

Submitted by Cindy Moss,
Glen Loch Elementary, The Woodlands, Texas.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Royal Portraits,” by Helen Randall Evensen, September 1982


The pages are yellowed and torn, but my 20-year-old copy of “Royal Portraits” has proven over the years to be a source of one of my most popular and rewarding art activities. My second-graders are introduced to examples of Renaissance portraits, the magic of jewels, fancy fabrics and noble expressions. Their paintings in tempera and pearlescent paint are eagerly created over a series of classes, with the added anticipation that, in third grade, we will revisit this activity, but with a twist: students will create “Royal Cat and Dog Portraits.” Once again, we conjure up images of royal elegance and expressions inspired by the wonderful book, Sit! Ancestral Dog Portraits, by Bruce McCall and Thierry Poncelet (Workman Publishing Co., Inc., 1993). The magnificent results are truly masterpieces with pedigrees!

Submitted by Barbara Zemetis,
The Independent Day School, Middlefield, Conn.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Levels of Emotions,” by Marcia H. Buban, October 2001


I have always felt that a great art lesson transcends age levels and this lesson has proved just that. As I started a leave replacement at an elementary school, I struggled for a way to get to know the students. My answer? I introduced “Levels of Emotions.” I asked the students to place their hands on their face to see how their facial features changed as they changed their expression. They then created a line drawing on heavy-weight newsprint, exaggerating part of their face to help express their emotion. Students created a second drawing of the opposite emotion they already had drawn. This not only gave them two drawings to choose from but, as they drew more, they became more expressive and creative with their work.

The students used mirrors, but I stressed that the drawings did not need to look like them, but had to be anatomically correct. This was helpful because many of the fourth- and fifth-graders were self-conscious at first. They soon relaxed and had fun, exaggerating features they at one time may have even been embarassed about, such as freckles, curly hair or braces. Students cut their work apart following the lesson and then finished their work using wire for braces, polymer clay for barrettes and cloth for accessories. I displayed the portraits anonymously so students could guess the creators. They looked great with all 150 of them together. Parents and administrators loved it.

When I switched to teaching high school, I started the year by assessing the skill level of the students by using the same lesson. This helped students understand how to create a low relief, while stressing accuracy and problem solving. Students finished their self-portraits two different ways: one choice was a Pop-art finish, using primary colors and Pop-techniques such as pattern, dots and stripes, looking at Lichtenstein’s work for inspiration. Other students used colored chalk gently rubbed into the surface to accentuate the subtle details of the cardboard. Both primed the portrait with two coats of white tempera, being careful not to lose the details. I think the results speak for themselves! This lesson has definitely become part of my permanent collection.

Submitted by Gina D’Orazio-Zohar,
Eastchester High School, Eastchester, N.Y. and
Lincoln Elementary School, Mt. Vernon, N.Y.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“What Would You Store In Your Jar?,” by Karen Skophammer, April 1996


This particular project on drawing jars and their contents struck me as a great way to expand my basic drawing lesson, the first project I teach my fourth grade students in September. I begin with a lesson we call our “Pencil Warm-Up.” We use manila paper 12″ x 18″ that students fold in half and then into quarters. The blocks are numbered 1 to 4. With a 4B pencil and an eraser, we begin different exercises. In one block, we shade a value scale. In the second block, students draw cubes, spheres and cones. In a third block, cylinders are drawn. (This is done while looking at actual forms.) I tell the students to draw their ideal breakfast in values of gray in the fourth block.

After this drawing session, the students have been well prepared for the jar lesson. I set up a still life of four jars. Two of them have items inside so that students can see how objects appear stacked inside the glass. We discuss items that one might collect in jars. At this point, my lesson departs from the one published in 1996. I tell the children they must draw three jars on a table or a tablecloth. Several types of media are allowed: watercolor, gold tempera, markers, crayons and colored pencils. Emphasis is placed on the drawing of the jars and their contents. This was a fun project and the jars were full of many surprise collections.

Submitted by Carol A. Zerbe,
Lower Gwynedd Elementary School, Ambler, Pa.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Bon Voyage: Travel Posters,” by Smedley C. Manion, April 1994

12a 12B

Traveling is fun, whether you actually go to a new destination or just imagine what a new place might be like. I asked my students to think about places they had been that were special to them or to dream about a new place that they wanted to visit. After reading the travel poster article, we talked about our different experiences and wishes. As many of my students are blind, their connections to a place were often associated with different senses; such as hearing or taste. One student chose Nashville because of the country music that he liked and performers who he knew had played at the Grand Ole Opry. Another student loved to eat chocolate and, for her, the association to a place became Hershey Park, Pa. The students had fun using varied collage materials to create their posters.

Submitted by Rocky N. Tomascoff,
Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, Mass.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Line, Shape, Color,” by Geri Greenman, March 2002


My seventh-graders had just studied contour drawing, so it was natural to try this idea. I changed the chalk pastels to oil pastels, however. The blending was amazing and when it went over the dried glue lines, it gave a glowing effect. I talked more about creating an overall mood with the colors being used. One student, for instance, used blues and purples to create a calm mood, whereas another used mostly warm colors to create a vibrant mood. Other students chose to create background swirls with the glue to add to the mood of the portraits.

Another interesting discovery we made was that if gel glue was used rather than white glue, it gave a whole different look when dry: a still-wet look that many of the students loved. You could see through the glue to the colored board, so the glue was a shiny color. In many cases, students purposely rubbed the oil pastels on the outline to enhance the glue. This gave another look to the somewhat dimensional effect that was already present.

I am currently having my fifth-graders use glue and oil pastels to capture the essence of animals in cartoon form. These should turn out extraordinary as well.

Submitted by Karen Skophammer,
Manson Northwest Webster School, Barnum, Iowa.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Jointed Clay Figures,” by Esther L. Cannon, April 1991


Every winter I do a clay unit with my students. In the fall, we had done some projects around the idea of puppets made from varied materials such as socks and bags. I decided to continue the theme and do clay puppets. My students range in age from 5 to 15, and have varying degrees of vision as well as other physical and cognitive limitations. Half the students chose to make animal puppets and half did self-portraits. We used red and white low-fire clay and generally followed the directions described in the article. Instead of jeweler’s wire, we used telephone wire to connect the clay pieces. It is very soft, pliable and strong, and was easy for all the students to manipulate—including those who had low-tone hand strength or difficulty with fine-motor skills. It was a successful project in which all the students could participate.

Submitted by Rocky N. Tomascoff,
Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, Mass.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“A Pledge is a Promise,” by Susan D. Cornett, October 1992


When “A Pledge is a Promise” appeared in Arts & Activities in 1992, I used the idea with my fourth-grade students for Flag Day. Although they came out great, I did not use the project again until September 11 happened. I felt we needed something to strengthen our morale and show our unity. I usually start the fifth-grade classes out by doing self-caricatures and this project was perfect. Instead of cutting out the drawings, the students added a patriotic background.

One of my schools has a large folding door that separates the cafeteria from the gym, so I hung the portraits there, floor to ceiling. In my other school, they were displayed all along the fifth-grade hallway. This project is a hit with the students and adults and is now a tradition in the making!

Submitted by Lorraine Carolfi,
Pennell and Parkside Elementary Schools, Parkside, Pa.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Aspen Trees,” by Elaine Canfield, October 2002


This lesson was a “realistic” success with my second-grade art classes. The students viewed and discussed the landscape artworks of Claude Monet and Winslow Homer. We added cool color and a textural dimension to the lesson by using spray bottles and blue watercolor to paint the background. Some of my classes used sponges instead of dry-brush technique for painting the leaves. The children thoroughly enjoyed using a variety of painting techniques to create a beautiful landscape.

Submitted by Ivey Coleman,
South Columbia Elementary School, Martinez, Ga.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Student Silhouette Designs,” by Bill Brittain, September 2001


I had been searching for a fun way to introduce the elements and principles to my seventh-grade art classes and your September 2001 issue with this lesson in it was perfect! Every student was successful and they were thrilled at how neat their silhouettes turned out. I displayed them in the halls, and teachers and parents had fun guessing who each silhouette was.

I followed the project as outlined, but what I did was have the students draw nine different patterns or textures that they invented on a thumbnail sketch paper. Then, we discussed color combinations and they colored their four favorite patterns, deciding what color scheme they liked best. They then divided their silhouette into sections and lightly drew each of the four patterns several times inside their head. Lastly, they chose up to four colors of magic marker or colored pencil to fill in their design patterns. As you can see, each one is totally unique and beautifully done. (Thanks so much for the opportunity to brag a bit about my art students!)

Submitted by Stephanie Stamm,
Boyertown Junior High West, Boyertown, Pa.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Repetition Makes an Impression,” by Paula M. Slemmer, September 1999
“Falling into Winter,” by Carolyn Lang Harrington, October 2000
“Aspen Trees,” by Elaine Canfield, October 2002

15a 15B

I’m sure everyone saves their copies of Arts & Activities—and if they don’t, they should. I look forward to each issue and any time I need quick ideas and inspiration that will fit into a structured art curriculum, I have my collection of old and new issues to peruse.

Often I will expand on ideas from current and past issues and even combine ideas over time. After reading “Repetition Makes an Impression,” I knew that leaf prints framing Impressionist autumn trees would be appropriate for my second-grade students. It was so successful, I used the leaf print idea with my first- through fifth-grade students, changing the center portion on each project. In first grade I made changes in “Falling into Winter,” and used “Aspen Trees” for the fifth grade. This was one of those rare projects where all of my students experienced success!

Submitted by Connie Vickers,
Smith Elemen-tary School, Burlington, N.C.

Download Repetition Makes An Impression PDF

Download Falling Into Winter PDF

Download Aspen Trees PDF

“Printmaking, It’s Elementary!,” by Andrew Wales, November 2002


For months, I pondered how to give our elementary students printmaking experience. Pieces of ideas floated around in my mind. As I read the November issue of Arts & Activities, the pieces came together into a great project idea.

Instead of the usual bake-sale fund-raiser, I was inspired to try a holiday greeting-card sale with the cards designed and printed by the students. Foam-board sheets (4″ x 5″) and ball-point pens were substituted for the materials used in the article. Students’ designs were traced onto the foam plates and inscribed with a ball-point pen. Tinted wallpaper adhesive, as well as Speedball® metallic gold ink, were used for inking the plates with brayers. Designs were transferred to quarter-folded, high-quality construction paper. The cards were packaged with envelopes, given a festive name label and “purchased” with parent donations at the Christmas Program.

Submitted by Kris Inman,
Eastern Hills Christian Academy, Albuquerque, N.M.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“It’s a Fine Season for Masks,” by Patricia Kennedy, October 1999


I had the pleasure of receiving Arts & Activities magazine as a gift from another teacher. What follows is the introduction to my lesson that I had adapted from your magazine and subsequently submitted to the Teacher Project in New York, of which I am an active member. Please take the time to visit my entire lesson online to fully appreciate the work of my students (www.teachnet-lab.org/is24/llangsner/ masklesson.htm). I originally created this lesson after reading the article in 1999, and repeated it again in 2002.

My students created plastercraft masks to depict the four seasons. By navigating Web sites, they learned about Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo and his “season” series of floral faces. The students created symbolism in their masks through the use of collage materials. Teacher-prep included locating appropriate Web sites for reference, gathering visual resources and acquiring a CD of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to play while the students work.

Students viewed and discussed the “Web Gallery of Art” and Arcimboldo’s paintings. They brainstormed associations and phrases of the four seasons, decided which season had the most appeal to them, brought in materials to enhance the feeling of that season, and created color studies for their masks. The students applied plaster-craft over plastic molds to create the mask form. The masks are then sanded, painted and decorated. Finally, the students set up a showcase of their work.

Participating in class discussions, short quizzes, creative-writing assignments, and peer review/evaluation of work add to the students’ complete experience.

Submitted by Lori Langsner,
Barnes Intermediate School, Staten Island, N.Y.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Playing With Positive and Negative Space,” by Angela Wilkins, September 2002

20a 20b

I decided that the striking-looking animal-stencil designs created in this article could be adapted to teach my fourth- and fifth-graders about complementary colors. We started by discussing the idea of positive and negative space and the use of variety and repetition in design. In adapting and expanding this lesson, I had my students create their own animal stencils out of tag. Students looked at a variety of animal graphics that I had printed up to serve as idea sheets. Each student spent the first 45-minute art class sketching, creating and cutting out an original animal stencil for use the following week.

In the second class, we reviewed the color wheel, primary and secondary colors and then learned about complementary colors. We discussed how their designs would be created using only one pair of complementary colors (red/green, blue/orange and violet/yellow) and how dynamic these colors looked when paired together. The students spent the rest of this class and one more 45-minute session to finish up these great animal designs. My students were extremely pleased with their vibrant, complementary-colored animal-stencil creations.

Submitted by Ellen Moskowitz,
Conley and Beethoven Schools, Boston, Mass.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Fall Fun Leaf Prints,” by Anne Hamilton, October 1996

1a 1b

This article got me thinking about printmaking projects I was developing at my elementary school. I didn’t have metallic paper, but I liked the idea of black prints atop autumn colors, so I modified the lesson. Second graders tore autumn-colored construction papers for a collaged printing surface then tried the printing technique of making your own leaf stamps suggested in the article. Well, hers looked great, ours were a disaster! Later we tried real leaves and they gave great clarity of texture and lines.

I’ve extended the project with leaf rubbings, stencils and rubbing plates for younger grades. Second grade also did an extension with chalk pastel drawings. They loved printing, but they wanted more color. Using chalk pastels, they get to experiment with other colors.

I like my adaptations and extensions of the original project as well because they teach many art elements at once and the kids like them because they get to have a positive art experience with a fairly technical process. Thanks Anne Hamilton, for this fun, educational and adaptable project!

Submitted by Kelly Campbell-Busby,
Hall-Kent Elementary School, Homewood, Ala.

Click Here To Download A PDF Of Article

“Primarily Paper,” by Paula Guhin
“A Figurative Departure from Realism,” by Geri Greenman, October 2002


Our “musical collages” were inspired by two projects from Arts & Activities, the first of which used a variety of papers and the second which used neutral colors and newspaper. I liked the look of both of these projects and figured out a way to combine them for fourth-graders.

My students began a contour drawing of a bass and flute, which I borrowed from the music room. Students were allowed to sit on the floor up close to the instruments. Careful looking led to careful drawing, finding detail and symmetry. Students were challenged to draw the side of the bass to enhance the three-dimensional view. Soon, all students were engaged in drawing.

After the instruments were completed, one piece of wallpaper was selected, then students created rubbings using texture plates and crayons in colors found in the wallpaper. Newspaper text was encouraged over pictures. Torn edges were required for all papers, including drawings. Students kept their growing of papers in a zipper-locked plastic bag between classes. Finally, papers were ready for gluing. First, we met to discuss balance between elements. No blue all in one corner. Each kind of paper needed to have three “bounces” across the page except for the instruments, which needed to be carefully placed on top.

Unity was created by painting everything with a watered-down brown wash. Lastly, when dry, black musical notes and a staff were stamped sparingly on the surface. This project was so positive and success-oriented that students and staff alike loved it.

Submitted by Michaela Schulze,
Southern Elementary School, Independence, Mo.

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Download A Figurative Departure From Realism PDF Here

“Ancient Egyptian Portraits,” by John P. Richards, November 1995


This is an absolutely magical lesson that I have used many times since its publication. It is a wonderful painting lesson that all of my students have loved and have had great success creating.

I have found that this portraiture lesson can easily be adapted to any culture: Egyptian, Japanese, American Indian, Russian, Chinese, Mexican, etc. It blends beautifully with the inter-disciplinary approach to teaching taken in most middle schools. Another plus is that it also works well for the occasional, extremely creative student who sees the world through different eyes, and thinks it would be far more exciting, for example, to create a member of the “Fairy Kingdom.” Adaptations can easily be worked out.

The idea of using crayon to outline the drawing before painting (the wax resisting the paint and keeping it contained) makes painting a successful experience for every student, even those with little or no prior painting.

I have used so many of the wonderful ideas published in Arts & Activities to enhance my art program, but this lesson is my very favorite.

Submitted by Carol Daniel,
Jenkins Middle School, Colorado Springs, Colo.

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“Getting Acquainted is the Name of the Game,” by Helen Randall Evensen, September 1998

17a 17B

With the start of each school year, it is a struggle to remember my students’ name. It is especially difficult when you have four of each grade, and having 20-some students in each classroom makes it even more of a challenge! This project serves as a great ice-breaker. At the start of the year it helps to assess students’ skill levels and see how well they follow directions. It is also a life-saver for the teacher, as it reinforces and reacquaints them with the names of each student.

This unit was successful for all the students because it was divided into steps that were easy and simple enough for all to be successful. While they followed directions, they also had the opportunity to express themselves. Students have the freedom to be very creative when they begin to develop each of their unique characters with details and patterns.

When I introduce this unit each year, the students get very excited. They remember the name-game drawings their older siblings brought home and are eager to take things further, coming up with even more unusual characters. It has been a very successful and inspirational project for all my students. I really feel that all students were successful and learned a great deal about paper space, adding details, and following directions in order to be successful.

Submitted by Rosie Crnecki,
Sunnyside School, Sobieski, Wis.

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