Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
THERE’S A PAINT PARTY IN THE ART ROOM!
by Heidi O’Hanley
For the past few years, there has been a rise in art studios opening up across the country, and many of those studios specialize in “paint and sip nights.” From what I’ve observed, many of these studios offer open studio time as well as structured canvas paintings.
Parents and children flock to these studios for birthday parties, scout-badge achievements, and various other events that gather friends and family in the spirit of enjoying painting and being creative. You can also take part in creating a “paint party” within your own classroom! Here are some steps to keep in mind if you decide to throw a paint party of your own.
1. Choose your objectives. What would you like your students to learn? What standards would you like to meet? Before starting with the subject(s) you wish to paint, figure out why you want to have your students participate in the painting project. Maybe you wish to visit perspective, color theory, painting techniques, or value!
2. Choose your grade level. What age level do you think your project would be the most successful? Would you like to try tempura paint on paper? Younger grade levels would benefit from working with washable paints with just as much fun. I like to create the paint project with acrylics, so my classes start their paint party projects in 5th grade. Since acrylic is difficult to wash out of clothes, we take baby steps each year and work out way up to acrylics.
3. Choose your theme. Every painting project is different, and there is no right or wrong way to deliver the lesson. The main two questions are: What would catch the students’ interests and what structure do they need to accomplish the objectives? Depending on your class, they may enjoy what is traditionally called a “cookie cutter” project where everyone makes the same subject and follow step by step to complete the project. Popular subject examples are trees, snowmen, flowers, or animals. Other classes may enjoy a choice-based project where the subject is their own, but the objectives are met in different ways.
4. Prep your materials. Your materials may vary depending on the grade level. If you can swing it, use canvas frame or boards. Many art studios include canvas frames with their costs and supply the materials, but if you have a strict budget, work with what you have. With our budget, we’re able to order canvas boards for each student creating the project (about 100 fifth-graders). If you are teaching a high school class, you can incorporate how to create a stretched canvas. If you can’t swing the canvas, use heavyweight paper.
5. Practice your lesson. Always make your example before delivering your instruction. Depending on the subject or materials you use, there are steps to follow and layers to add when creating the paintings. Creating the painting is like making a paper collage, only instead of paper layers, you’re dealing with wet paint! Once you have your example made and your steps in order, you will be more confident in the delivery of your project.
6. If you plan on setting up food or beverageS at your “paint party,” check for food/drink allergies. It sounds like fun to try to throw a complete paint party with your class, but if you have students with food allergies, you need to be aware for their own safety. Many schools no longer work with food for special events and parties, so this option may not be available. If you are a school that still accepts food for parties, make sure you notify parents and staff what you plan to do.
7. Prepare for things to go right or wrong. If this is your first time throwing “paint party” project, be prepared for things not to go 100% your way. My first time teaching a paint party was a character builder, but each time after, delivering the lesson became easier. You may also come across pleasant surprises if your students think outside of the box while creating their paintings! I noticed that when one student adds a little something extra to a painting, the students around them are inspired to add a little something extra as well, which enhances the projects!
8. Have fun! The point of a paint party is to have fun! Paint nights have been popping up around the country because adults and kids are enjoying taking the time to create. It doesn’t matter if it’s a “cookie cutter” project or an open paint time, people are having fun being creative and actively taking the time to make their own art!
If you decide to do a paint party project during class time, after school, or an evening event, I hope you have the best time with your students, parents, and staff!
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT) teaches elementary art for Indian Springs School District #109, in the Greater Chicago Area. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.