This is what I call a high-success, low-stress project. The students love it. And, it is a perfect icebreaker at the beginning of the year.
Back in the day, when I first started teaching art, representatives from the art supply catalogs would visit your school. They would bring free samples and, on occasion, demonstrate an art lesson with some of their samples. Today, the art supply catalogs have wonderful websites filled with lesson plans and video demonstration on just about all the art products they carry.
This is one of those projects that was demonstrated way back when. What I liked about it at the time (besides thinking it is fun), was the fact that I had all the materials needed to do it right away with my students.
All you need are 12″ x 12″ white drawing paper and 12″ x 12″ construction paper in any color, color chalk, scissors, and paper towels.
To start the lesson, fold the square piece of colored construction paper in half twice back into a square. This construction paper will serve as the stencil for this chalk-design project.
The next step is the trickiest: Explain to students that the folded square paper has two edges that are folded and two edges that do not have folds—they are open. To make the stencil and give it more interest, they will need to trim down the two open edges no more than a half-inch, cutting a fancy edge such as a zigzag, curvy or whatever else your imagination can come up with. When they finish cutting the edges, ask them to open up their cut paper squares and voilà, they will have a fancy edge square stencil (see diagram).
Time to use the chalk. Because chalk can get messy, caution students that they need to protect their white drawing paper from chalk smudges or fingerprints. They may select any color chalk they want, except white or black. White will not show up on white paper and black overpowers the rest of the colors.
Next, take the color chalk and lay in the color, nice and dark, on all four edges of your fancy square stencil. You just need to color a half-inch deep around each edge. Then, place your stencil chalk-side-up in the middle of the white square paper, take a paper towel and rub off the chalk dust from the fancy edges onto the white paper.
Carefully lift the stencil off to reveal the start of your chalk stencil design. Now, continue the process by folding the stencil paper back up again, and cutting a new fancy edge (basically, you’re cutting off the chalk). Open and then place on the white paper and color it with a different chalk color to rub on the white paper.
What is going to make the students’ designs interesting and unique are the colors of chalk they pick, how fancy they cut the edges, and how well they protect their project from smudges.
When the stencil gets cut down to about the size of a quarter, it’s time to finish the center of the design. To do this, apply your final chalk color onto a piece of scrap paper, then take a paper towel and rub off the chalk dust from the scrap, into the center of the design.
The students’ eyes light up each time they pull away their freshly rubbed stencil, anticipating what their new color creation will look like. This high-success, low-stress project is a perfect way to get your new class of students excited about art class, and eager to start the next assignment.
Middle-school students will …
• understand the art medium of chalk.
• create a stencil chalk design.
• use scissors to make creative cuts to enhance their individual designs.
• use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• Creating: Conceiving and developing artistic ideas and work.
• Presenting: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.
• Responding: Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.
• Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
• 12″ x 12″ white drawing paper
• 12″ x 12″ any color construction paper
• Color chalk
• Paper towels
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Hugh Peterson recently retired after 35 years as an art teacher, most recently at Phoenix Middle School in Delavan, Wis.
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