Over 700 fourth-graders from around Wyoming expanded their learning about their state through this two-day, Wyoming-themed unit.
Integrating state standards from Social Studies, Language Arts (Common Core), and Visual Art, the unit supplemented what fourth-grade teachers in our state were already teaching students about Wyoming history.
Elements of the unit are shared below. While the unit is specific to Wyoming, it can easily be adapted for other states or countries. We encourage you to explore this possibility.
I. IN THE COUNTY QUARTERS PROJECT, students designed quarters for their counties in Wyoming. Similar to the U.S. “state” quarters, the children’s designs included information, symbols and drawings that were specific to their counties of residence.
Students view and discussed several state coins, focusing on key questions prompted by such questions as “how was this state represented?” and “what pictures, symbols, and text were used to represent this state and why?”
The students then reviewed and discussed information about their counties of residence, discussing landscapes, symbols, historic sites, and text that might appropriately represent their counties. They then individually sketched and brainstormed ideas, and created and shared their own designs.
The students’ county quarter projects were completed on 10-inch round, white cardboard blanks. They sketched their planned designs on the blanks with pencil, traced these designs with black permanent markers, and then added a metallic look by coloring the blank with silver metallic crayons.
II. TO CREATE THEIR WYOMING HISTORY TIMELINES, students read and synthesized information about historic Wyoming people, places, and events to identify important details and create pieces for a timeline. These included marker drawings, important facts on topics, and maps of Wyoming designating event locations.
First, students closely read one-page information sheets that included both text and images, and identified five key facts or ideas about the topic, and recorded these in their journals. Students then sketched ideas for illustrations to accompany information and planned their timeline pages.
Finally, they used maps of Wyoming to locate the site of the historical place, event, or where a person lived. These locations were starred in miniature maps of the state, also included on the timeline pieces. After the timeline pages were completed, students put the pages in chronological order, reviewed and discussed the complete timeline, and then exhibited their work.
III. LEARNING AND WRITING ABOUT WYOMING ARTISTS. Students viewed, discussed and wrote about art by six contemporary Wyoming artists: Bob Coronato, Cody Stampede Rodeo poster; Joy Keown, Buffalo Bull; Robert Martinez, Red and Blue; Travis Ivey, Summer on the Main Line; Adrienne Vetter, Camperwagon 1: Horse Americana; and Do Palma, Sage Wars.
Activities included whole and small group discussions, analysis of visual artwork using an art criticism model (Barrett, 2000), and individual art criticism writing activities. Our questions included description questions (e.g., What do you see in this painting?), interpretive questions (e.g., What do you think this quilt is about?), and judgment questions (e.g., What do you like about this watercolor painting?). After the small group shared ideas, each student responded to the questions individually, in writing, and in complete sentences.
IV. IN THE WYOMING PAINTINGS LESSON, students selected Wyoming-related topics (historical people/places, landscapes, symbols and so on), made sketches, painted them with watercolors, and wrote accompanying artist statements. Students then shared, discussed and exhibited their paintings. This was typically the final lesson in the unit.
After two days of related activities, students had many Wyoming-themed ideas, and were able to plan and paint anything they’d like, as long as they connected the topics to Wyoming. After deciding on a topic, students sketched out their painting plans, then transferred these to watercolor paper, and painted them using watercolor paints.
After painting (and while paintings dried), students completed simple artists’ statements that included providing a title for the paintings and articulating what they chose to paint and why.
Throughout thIS ARTS-INTEGRATED unit, we documented high levels of student engagement and learning as evaluated against our standards-based rubrics. Complete lesson plans, materials, and examples of student work for each lesson/project in the unit are available online at http://sites.google.com/site/wearewyo/home.
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Allen Trent and Peter Moran are both Professors in the College of Education, at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
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