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

A&A: It Works!

A&A: It Works!

When our “It Works!” event was announced last May, responses started flowing in from around the country. From down South in Mississippi, up north in Vermont, across to the Pacific Northwest, and on down to California, it quickly became apparent that Arts & Activities magazine is accomplishing what it set out to do 80 years ago—help the nation’s art educators in the day-to-day business of making art experiences real and vital in the lives of students.

North, South, East or West, Arts & Activities has worked for hundreds of thousands of educators and it will work for you, too.

Following is a sampling of the responses we received. Access the original articles that inspired them—dating from 1983 to 2012—by clicking on the article download link.

What a great way to celebrate our 80th Anniversary. Enjoy!

— Maryellen Bridge, Editor in Chief

Playing with Picasso by Debra Tampone, March 2008

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Since I have a large print of The Three Musicians by Picasso in the hall outside my room, I thought this project would be a blast. To change up the lesson to suit my likes I gave the students freedom to choose any colors they wanted, as long as they had a lot of contrast and every color was applied with a graduation into another color. Encouraging them to use any colors they wanted opened up possibilities and learning moments. Some learned that red graduating to green results in mud in the middle. Red graduating to white creates a beautiful pink in the middle, etc. The kids were very pleased with their drawings and many of them said that it was the best art they ever did. People who don’t know how we did the project often ask how on earth did you get the kids to draw like that?

Submitted by Pam Mikolajczyk,
Holden (Massachusetts) Christian Academy

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Inside-Out Seascapes by Judy Kalil, June 2007

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I knew immediately that my fifth-grade students would find the concept of this project intriguing. I adapted the lesson for my more advanced classes. Students chose an ocean animal and drew it on white tag board. They painted a beach scene inside the animal using a combination of tempera cakes and acrylics. They used scrapbook and construction paper to create the ocean floor, adding details with construction paper crayons. They assembled their work on a large piece of blue construction paper. This project was one of the most successful projects that I’ve encountered. The students really become engaged when given the freedom to choose their ocean animal and the beach scene. No two projects were alike!

Submitted by Amanda Koonlaba,
Lawhon Elementary, Tupelo, Miss.

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Cool Polar Bears: Dabbing on the texture by Jean O’Connell, December 2011

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I saw this project on the cover of Arts & Activities magazine. I loved the way O’Connell explained this to her students, so I pretty much followed it to the letter. I decided to do them with my third-graders.

I pulled books from our media center on polar bears, and I created a slideshow from photographs of polar bears I’d found online. First, the students sketched an outline of the polar bear with pencil, observing different shapes of body parts. Next, they filled in the outline with liquid white tempera paint and a very dry brush, using a dabbing approach. The resulting effect was a fur-like texture.

Students then added snow on the ground using long horizontal brush strokes and some water added to the paint. The next class we added details with chalk pastels. I demonstrated how to blend the chalk to create shadows. Some of them added a cute hat or scarf to the bear. It was a nice lesson that blended technique and a little science.

Submitted by Jennifer D. Day,
Gulf Breeze (Florida) Elementary

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Chameleons: Reptilian Texture by Hugh Petersen, December 2009

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As soon as I read this article, which is aimed at middle- and high-school students, I knew I had to adapt it for my fourth-graders! I was also able to adapt the project to meet the needs of all levels of learners. I taught the students how to draw a chameleon using basic shapes: a triangle for the head, oval for the body, etc. They erased and redrew parts of the shapes until they were satisfied with their chameleon. Some classes used white glue to draw the chameleon on black construction paper. Then, they used metallic acrylics to paint. Others drew the chameleon on white tag board and used brightly colored permanent markers to trace. Then, they used pearlescent watercolors to paint. Because this project was so easily differentiated, all students were able to be successful in the creation of a shiny, textured chameleon!

Submitted by Sarah Taylor,
Bigfork (Montana) High School

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Give Me Liberty by Debra B. Sweeney, June 2007

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During my early years of teaching, Arts & Activities was my lifeline. Determining what types of art projects would be both fun to teach as well as visually stimulating for my students was a challenge. When I discovered Debra Sweeney’s clever use of media in one art project, the inspirational floodgates opened.

I appreciated the way Debra explained her process and took a relatively non-art subject like the Statue of Liberty and turned it into an expressive art lesson. I have done this lesson with my fifth-grade students many times and over the years have experimented with various collage techniques, used different media and even tried a full version Lady Liberty!

I love the balance of direct-line instruction and self-expression that this lesson offers. The class all starts together, drawing Lady Liberty with a waterproof marker and then the creativity begins … liquid watercolor paint, markers, stickers, sequins, painted paper scraps, oil pastels and splashes of metallic tempera paint all add to the uniqueness of each piece. Lady Liberty never fails to be a hit in my art room.

Submitted by Patty Palmer,
Brandon School, Goleta, Calif.

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Tree of Life: Gustav with Gusto by Joan Sterling, November 2010

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While this lesson was written for upper-elementary, I chose to adapt it for my first-graders.

First, we created background papers, using a wet-on-wet technique with liquid watercolors in either warm or cool colors. Using spray bottles, students sprayed their papers with water, then dipped their brushes into paint and dabbed it onto their paper.

We studied Klimt’s Tree of Life and discussed the lines and patterns students saw. Each child then received a 6″ x 8″ piece of printing foam on which they drew a tree, starting with the trunk. I then demonstrated how they could build their branches using spiral lines that touched the top and sides of the paper so they would have a full tree. They then filled in their trunks with a pattern of their choice.

As they finished working on the foam, students came over to me at the printing station, where they rolled black ink onto their foam, making sure to cover the entire piece. Then they placed it ink-side-down in the middle of their background papers and used clean brayer to transfer the ink.
I love the contrast of the black ink against the painted backgrounds!

Submitted by Mary Tavares,
Hollibrook Elementary, Houston, Texas

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Outstanding O’Keeffe-Inspired Art by Debi West, October 2007

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This is one of those successful lessons that make every child happy and proud! I introduce and teach it pretty much as written—with a history of Georgia O’Keeffe and her desire to “see” nature and draw it through the elements of art. We use chalk pastels on 12″ x 12″ white paper. Students “zoom” in on the flower for a close-up view and to go off the edge of the paper. They “ooh” and “ahh” as they see the beautiful pastel colors blend together. After the pastel pieces are finished, we add a technology component. Each student uses my iPad and stylus to alter a photo of the flower. The student removes the color from the photo and then paints it back digitally. Wow! Two beautiful pieces of art!

Submitted by Donna Staten,
Gattis Elementary, Round Rock, Texas

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Celtic Roads by Jan Kinney, March 2009

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I wanted to impress upon my student teacher, Elizabeth, the importance of using Arts & Activities as a lesson-planning tool. I love to use the magazine because I know it offers successful lessons which can be used as-is or altered for specific needs.

Elizabeth chose “Celtics Roads,” which she altered a bit. The objectives were for her to teach about color schemes and values, introduce a new style of art and introduce techniques to build upon: overlapping, patterns and how to draw mirror images.

Students were tested before and after the lesson to gauge their knowledge of Celtic artwork, share history of it and compare it to today’s art. The lesson focused on creating color schemes, overlapping, patterns and transferring of mirror images of drawings. It was a success! Students expressed themselves through their design choices, and I have seen the evidence of an understanding of color theory, overlapping to show layers and how to transfer imagery in subsequent lessons.

Submitted by Virginia Berthelot, Denham Springs (Louisiana) High School and Elizabeth Hecht, currently at Phoenix High School, Braithwaite, La.

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Eye-Catching Calacas by Cheryl Crumpecker, October 2012

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I used the “Eye-Catching Calacas” idea from the October 2012 issue and made a few minor adaptations for my fourth-graders. Rather than using lots of colored paper in the background, I wanted the focus to be mainly on the skeleton. So we used blended pastels in the background and pieces of torn construction paper only along the top and bottom edges.
The fun really began once they started dressing the skeletons and they immediately discovered how that activity added personality to the skeletons and made them “come to life.” A line of gold glitter along the torn edges of the construction paper added some sparkle and finished off this project nicely.

Submitted by Karyn Vine,
Penn Delco School District, Aston, Pa.

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Blob Flowers by Elaine Canfield, June 2003

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As the school year winds down, I search for ways to use up opened materials and odd-shaped left over paper—and ways to keep my antsy ready-for-summer students engaged! Elaine’s “Blob Flowers” project was a perfect solution for my fifth-grade artists.

We began by painting our blobs on long 6″ x 36″ pieces of heavy drawing paper, left from another project. Our watercolors were in a sorry state, but no matter! My students didn’t worry about the few colors that were left once they began painting their abstract blobs and spatters.

Since our markers were in short supply, I modified the original project by using black tempera paint thinned with a little water. Inspired by their abstract blobs, everyone enjoyed painting expressive lines to create flowers, butterflies and swirls. The results? Beautiful! Many of my students chose to roll their “scrolls” and tie them with a ribbon, making impromptu Mother’s Day gifts!

Submitted by Josey M. Brouwer,
Georgetown Elementary, Hudsonville, Mich.

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Aspen Trees by Elaine Canfield, October 2002

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“Amazing Aspen Alliteration” evolved from Elain Canfield’s lesson. Day one, we painted three to five white stripes on 13″ x 20″ gray cardstock, touching top and bottom, or diagonally from top to side. Day two, we painted black areas of the trees using plastic that was cut the size of credit cards as a tool. Day three, we studied photos of aspen trees then used permanent markers to add little black branches and any additional black areas not painted before. Then, using our fingerprints, we made leaves from yellow, orange, red and green paint.

The final class time was spent adding background with oil pastels and writing a description of the painting using alliteration of four or more words. This mixed-media project (acrylic paint, oil pastels, black marker) worked beautifully—with many compliments!

Submitted by Toni Busch Ratzlaff,
Summit Elementary,Divide, Colo.

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Winter Birch Trees by Debra Sweeney and Judy Rounds, December 2011

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The beauty of Vermont is found in the landscape; mountains, farmlands and trees. I was inspired to do this project with my fourth-grade classes because birch trees and sunsets are something our students see regularly but don’t always appreciate the beauty that surrounds them. We followed the directions as they were given, then substituted white tempera on a toothbrush and flicked it with a finger to make the snow on the picture. It gave it a little finer speckle. I displayed all 32 pictures on one wall of the school. Everyone who saw the Birches thought they were magnificent!

Submitted by Deborah Lajoie,
St. Francis Xavier School, Winooski, Vt.

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Winter Birch Trees by Debra Sweeney and Judy Rounds, December 2011

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After reading this article, I was excited to try it with my fourth-graders. What really grabbed my attention was the unusual method used for creating the bark on the trees and the chance to teach my students a masking technique.

We used a line of rubber cement to adhere the snowdrift mask. In 2011, we used tempera paint for the sky, and this year, liquid watercolors—wet-on-wet technique with a salt finish.

While creating the birch trees with black tempera and small pieces of cardboard, I discovered it was helpful to have students tap a paint line from the top to bottom of their paper before beginning the dry brush technique with the cardboard. The kids were thrilled with their realistic results! After assembling and finishing with a snowy mist, we entered our favorite three in our all-district art show. The result? Grand prize!

Submitted by Barb Holterman,
Pleasant Valley Primary, Battle Ground School District, Vancouver, Wash.

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Design goes Round and Round … I and II by Mary Gay Cooper and
Peggy J. Parker, December 1983


I have taught this lesson in many different ways. It can be as simple as a round design or incorporated into an Op Art lesson. Several years ago, when I inherited a stack of old CDs, I decided to update this project into “Modern Mandalas.”

We glue the CD to the center of a white paper square and use colored permanent markers to draw the designs. My fifth-graders really like the modern twist of drawing on the CDs. There is so much rich history and culture to teach with mandalas. There are also great videos about mandalas that can be found online.

Submitted by Donna Staten,
Gattis Elementary, Round Rock, Texas

>> Click Here To Download Article 1a

>> Click Here To Download Article 1b

>> Click Here To Download Article 2

It’s All in the Vase by Karen Skophammer, January 2011

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When I saw this lesson it was interesting to me as I teach art classes based on artists throughout history. My lessons often involve 3-D projects. My students learn how to adapt lessons that may be flat to begin but can become three-dimensional by cutting and folding. I found this lesson could be modified to become three-dimensional easily by having the students cut long strips with small slits on the long edges.

First the students drew a vase any shape they desired on a 12″ x 18″ piece of oak tag. This would become the front where the drawing of an artist’s painting from color pictures would be worked with their individual ideas. They would then color their sketch. The back—identical to the front—would become the biography of the artist. After the pieces are completed, the next step is to attach the long strips with small slits to the front first and then glue the back on the strip. Making small slits on the strips makes it easy to conform to each students’ unique vase shape with the slits folded in. This makes the vases stand up. The vases can be displayed on a window sill or library shelf to pick up, look at and read. Students can see different artists’ work and read the biography and learn a great deal about art history in an imaginative project.

Submitted by Lois Renzulli,
Our Lady of the Lake School, Verona, N.J.

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Kaleidoscopic Patterns of Bugs by Jeanne Kyle, June 1983

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This was a lesson plan I used years ago with junior-high students. When I changed jobs and started teaching K–5, I wanted to continue some lessons I enjoyed with my older students. This was one of them. In the original lesson, students used tempera paint, so I made a change to permanent markers, which would be much easier for my younger students to control.

I was so thrilled with the results, I started putting the designs on the art-room stools. This became another great way to showcase my students’ work. The only problem is that I don’t have all the stools done and students are very disappointed when there is not a painted stool in their spot when they come to class. You would think they had just won the lottery when they get to sit on a “masterpiece.”

Submitted by Holly Stanek,
Cambria Heights Elementary, Carrolltown, Pa.

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Poinsettia Perfection by Temple Skelton Moore, December 2006

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This is a holiday project that I have done every year since seeing it in 2006. The students are always happy with the paintings and we receive lots of compliments when they are displayed. This can be successful with any grade; some will look more realistic and others beautifully abstract!

We use 9″ x 12″ white paper, household sponges and tempera paint. The paint palette includes red, magenta and orange, as well as green, yellow and white. Students may blend and mix into tints as they please. They are encouraged to overlap and go off the edges of the paper. The white negative spaces of the sponge give it a lacy effect. When time allows, we add a little gold glitter to the middle of the flowers. Some years, we paint the backgrounds green as in the original lesson. This year, for variety in the lesson, we left the backgrounds white and were very pleased.

Submitted by Donna Staten,
Gattis Elementary, Round Rock, Texas

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article

Rock the Cradle with Klimt by Joan Sterling, December 2007

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This article caught my eye simply because it is based on Baby (Cradle), by Gustav Klimt. It opened a pathway for me to introduce him to my second-graders who always love lots of color and pattern. The students drew their own baby on white drawing paper. They used black permanent markers to outline and construction paper crayons for patterns on the quilt. Liquid condensed watercolors worked perfectly for adding the rest of the color to the quilt. They used oil pastels for the baby’s face. Then, they cut it out and glued it to black construction paper. This project provided the students an opportunity to put into practice their knowledge of line, pattern, and color. It also allowed them to practice using a variety of media. They loved creating their own baby, and some even named it!

Submitted by Amanda Koonlaba,
Lawhon Elementary, Tupelo, Miss.

Click Here To Download PDF Of Article


>> Click here to see samples of “It Works” from our 75th Anniversary.


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