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.
FITTING SCULPTURE INTO YOUR ART CLASSES
by Heidi O’Hanley
Three-dimensional artworks are some of the most fun, yet challenging projects to make in an art class. No matter what material you work with, there are many factors to consider when planning your lessons and creating products that are more than paper or canvas.
For this month’s Stepping Stones, I’d like to focus on planning sculpture projects in your classes. If you are a first year teacher or in a new teaching environment, there are factors to consider when planning your lessons and creating successful projects.
1. Know your space. Not everyone teaches in a permanent art room. Many are on a cart, travel, or share a space with another teacher. If you do not have a space of your own, this is where you get to be a little more creative with planning.
But first, check your space to answer the following questions. Do you have the resources available to work with ceramic or air dry clay? Is there space to work with paper sculptures or papier-mâché projects? Do you have space available to construct a 3D form? Spend some time exploring your space to see if you have the ability to create certain types of sculpture projects.
2. Know your storage. After you judge whether or not your space is a decent place to build 3D forms, plan where you wish to keep the student projects stored during the week. If you’re in your own room, plan to keep labeled bins, boxes, or labeled shelves for stored projects. If you’re on a cart, discuss ways you and the homeroom teacher can store bins or projects away from student hands. If you’re in a temporary space, work with your administrator to find places to store artworks when you’re not at the school.
3. Know your budget. While browsing the art-supply catalogs, you may notice that sculpture materials are some of the expensive items in your supply lists. Although it may be challenging to squeeze clay, glazes or tools into your lists, they are essential items to help a student develop their artistic skills.
Moving students from 2D to 3D is a good step to help with their spatial awareness and creative thinking. Sculpture materials may be on the high end of your budget, but find a way to squeeze in what you can. If it’s a struggle to fit sculpture materials into your budget, consider creating a “DonorsChoose” project. A little extra work advocating for materials can really help with supplies for your students!
4. Explore with the materials available. No matter what your budget is, you can find ways to create sculpture projects in your classes. But before you hand students a wire spool and ask them to create a 3D form, practice what you wish to have your students make. Take the time to create the project yourself before sharing it with your students. In doing so, it will help with working out any complications your students may come across when building their own projects.
5. Explore ideas on social media and blogs. Are you stuck on what to make for your sculpture lessons? Trying to find an artist to teach your students? There are multiple blogs and projects shared throughout art groups on social media! Teachers are always sharing pictures of projects, along with lesson details to help other teachers interested in taking the projects on with their own students! Some of the most exciting projects made in my class were inspired by other teachers around the globe! If you find a project you like, be sure to pay it forward and share an idea that you design down the road! We all work together to share amazing ideas with our classes!
6. Start small. One of the mistakes I made as a first year teacher was not budgeting the space I had available when student projects had to dry or be stored during the week. While pushing a cart from room to room, I underestimated the amount of space I had available and ended up creating projects that were too big to store. Whether it’s paper or clay, make the judgment call on what space you have available and test out how big or little to make the sculpture projects. After creating a few clay or paper sculptures, you will become aware of what space you have and how much further you can go.
7. Consider Collaborations. Sculptures do not have to be individual projects, you can also create collaborative projects that can be installations around your schools! A few years back, the teachers worked together to create a recycled sculpture art walk! Each class created a concept, collected the recycled materials, and created life-sized sculptures that were displayed throughout the school.
Have fun exploring with the 3D materials you have! Your students’ imaginations may surprise you!
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT), teaches art at Brodnicki Elementary School in Justice, Illinois. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.