I teach at a school for the blind, where my students range in age from 5 to 15 years. All of them have varying degrees of vision and language, cognitive and fine-motor abilities. Clay is a popular medium, the children enjoy its elastic, tactile properties. In our annual clay unit this year, students had made sea creatures.
During that unit, we had talked about different environments that our creatures might inhabit. So, for our next project, we decided to make aquariums for our clay creatures.
Each student was given a 15″ x 12″ x 8″ triwall box, with two 3″ x 11″ spaces cut out for windows. Triwall is triple-layered cardboard that is very strong and lightweight.
Students set to taping, priming and painting their boxes. Once the paint was dry, they used a variety of materials —shells, sand, stones, sea glass, greenery, colored tape, fabric, and so on—to give each a distinctive, individual look and feel. Once satisfied with the environments, they thoughtfully placed their sea creatures into their aquarium homes.
With staff assistance, pieces of thin, clear plastic were spanned across the window spaces and attached with hot glue, creating the look of glass. The students expressed excitement about their creatures having individual environments, which they had custom-designed especially for them.
We learned that some of the children had visited large aquariums, while others had home aquariums. This led to a lively discussion about the relative size of the creatures they chose to make and whether the real ones would even fit into an aquarium. One student, for example, made a clay whale; obviously, our box aquariums simply would not do for him.
During the project, there was conversation among students about their creatures and the environments they were creating. Many named their creatures and aquariums.
Relatives and friends attending our annual Art Show had a great time exploring each aquarium and identifying the creatures within them. The children got a kick out of that. One could say they made quite a splash!
Possible extensions of this project could include students writing haiku or short stories related to their creatures; discussing further the different aquatic environments and creatures that would inhabit them; and, making sea creatures out of other mediums, such as papier-mâché, stuffed fabric or folded paper.
Students will …
• understand what an aquarium is.
• make creative individual choices about what materials to use.
• explore and manipulate a wide variety of textures and materials to put in or on their boxes.
• make their box aquarium their OWN by adding creative details to them.
• communicate with each other about their individual work.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• Understanding and applying media, techniques and processes.
• Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others.
• Tri-wall boxes with pre-cut windows
• Clear plastic
• Clay, glazes
• Primer, paints, brushes
• Fabric, textured paper
• Tape, masking tape, hot glue
• Colored sand, shells, sea glass,stones, artificial plants, etc.
Rocky Tomascoff teaches art at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts.
Want More Classroom Projects From This Issue?