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Hopewell Culture copper tooling

28 Oct

The inspiration for this lesson comes from the Eastern Woodlands native Americans – who Mrs. Ware’s class has been learning about recently. Specifically the Hopewell culture. The Hopewell culture describes a group of related communities located in the Eastern Woodlands area. The most well known Hopewell site is located where the state of Ohio is today.

07_Hopewell-interaction-sphere-OAHopewellians were skilled artisans and crafters and had a trade network that spanned hundreds of miles to exchange goods they created with those of other tribes. They worked in materials such as mica (a flaky, clear mineral), human & animal bone and metals such as copper. These materials came from many different places as a result of their vast trade network.

11_dbb988a5b31258b4ec2d4f5f70161ff2Today we can see the evidence of these early people in the earthen mounds they built almost 2000 years ago. Scientists haven’t agreed on what purpose the mounds serve but some of the mounds were burial sites. They buried artifacts and treasures with the bodies in these mounds and many interesting things have been found.

This project is based on these copper artifacts.
{discuss} What is copper and how did they form it into these shapes??  (a naturally occurring reddish-orange metal found in the earth that is quite soft and can be worked by hand using tools and heat. The Hopewell people pounded the chunks they mined from the ground into flat sheets. Then they cut out shapes and carved designs into the surface.17_Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 3.50.29 AM

{discuss} how we use copper in our lives all the time – in water pipes, motors, batteries, electronics and cooking pots. And something we all carry in our pockets sometimes used to be made of copper – Pennies were 95% copper until 1983.  Why does some copper appear shiny and orange and other copper looks brownish and green? (patina – metal reacts with oxygen over time and creates a crust that protects the metal underneath) 23_hopewell-falcon-effigy-granger

Many of these Hopewell artifacts had similar motifs (recurring theme or design) ie – weeping eye, thunderbird, spider, serpent, mirrored symmetry. These motifs were things that were common or important in their lives and their culture so that’s what they chose to adorn their art.

Students will make their own copper artifacts using thin copper sheets and a stylus (like a pencil without lead). Copper is very soft so they will be able to draw on it to create a grooved design. Because this piece is flat and they aren’t adding colors to it they are creating interesting visuals with texture. Fill in areas with line patterns or motifs. Use motifs of the Hopewell culture or design you own.

photo (31)Students can “draw” on either side (or both!) to create your piece. Decide if they like the raised look or the indented look or maybe do both. Practice first in pencil in the notebook to layout design ideas. These copper sheets are expensive there is no extra if they want to start over. In order for this to work they must have a soft surface under your copper so do it on top of your notebook – NOT directly on your desk. {demo embossing technique – good video here} Press hard! Be careful of the edges of the metal – they can be sharp. When they turn them in have them indicate which side is the back and put a piece of tape with the student’s name on it.

Optional patina –  once completed students can decide if they like the look of shiny copper or if you like the old, weathered, greenish patina. Outside of class docents can treat select pieces to have the old patina look.

.004 copper tooling foil (cut into 6” squares) available at craft stores & online
wooden stylus (I used dowels, cut short and sharpened like pencils)
notebook (kids have them)
tape & marker for names
patina solution (optional) I used this one
clear coat lacquer spray

photo (33) (1)Patina process:
– I cleaned each piece with acetone and a scouring pad scrubbing in one direction only to clean the surface of any factory coating or fingerprints and to buff the surface to make the patina “stick” better.
– Rinse with water and dry thoroughly.
– Fill a flat, shallow plate with a small amount of solution and place the copper piece face down for about 5 minutes. Agitate slightly to make sure all of the front surface is touched by the solution. * note: solution becomes less potent after time and copper exposure. Use sparingly and refresh or replace solution every 5 pieces or so.
– Drain copper of excess solution drips and lay flat face up to develop. I left them for a whole day but the color starts to come up in minutes.
– Lightly brush each dry patina’d piece with a soft brush or dry soft cloth to remove any patina that is flaking off. Use a clean scouring pad to lightly scrape the surface to expose a little of the copper highlight on raised areas of the design.
– When pieces are free of dust spray them with a thin coat of clear lacquer to seal in the patina and let dry.

Note: Because the scouring of these pieces will make them flatter & smoother than any non-patina’d pieces you might want to burnish the shiny copper ones a bit. I used the side of a stylus to rub them flat just a bit.


Ancient Egyptian Clay Cartouches

16 Jan

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In celebration of Room 14’s unit on Ancient Egypt, we decided to make personal cartouches from clay.  In ancient Egyptian times, a cartouche was a “name plate” that was inscribed with hieroglyphs.  Using a hieroglyph translator chart, the students decoded their names and inscribed the symbols on a clay oval slab, creating a cartouche.

Lesson Overview:

I started out by explaining the lesson while the kids sat on the floor.  We talked about cartouches and I did a sample hieroglyph translation on the whiteboard with my name.  I explained that the first step was to accurately translate their name on to a piece of paper.  Then I demonstrated to them how to wedge the clay to remove the air bubbles and how to roll it out into a slab (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick) .  I then used a  cartouche template I had cut out  from tag board to trace the shape on to the clay.  (I cut out several of these for students to use)  Or,  I explained they could cut out their own cartouche oval without the template.  Then I explained that they would take their pieces back to their desks to work on the hieroglyph inscriptions and design.

Step 1:  We had the students practice their hyroglyphic names on a piece of paper.  Hyroglyphic charts can be found on the internet. Here is an example:  Once they had successfully completed the translation, we set them to work on the clay.

Step 2:  I set out two old cloth shower curtains for the students to wedge and roll the clay on.  If you roll the clay on a desk it just ends up sticking!  (Think bread dough!)  Once they had their cartouche shape slab, they carefully carried it back to their desks and set it on a piece of paper to prevent it from sticking.  I used construction paper so that it would be strong enough to support the clay during the drying process.

Step 3:  Using their hyroglyphics paper rough draft, the students inscribe the design on to the clay using a thin pointy tool (toothpick, pencil,  clay tools)

Step 4:  I stored the cartouches on the shelf in the kiln room to dry for about a week and then bisque fired them in the kiln.

Step 5:  After firing, I brought the pieces back for the students to glaze.  They choose a lighter glaze for the background and a darker one for the hieroglyphs details.

Step 6:  Glaze fired the pieces and returned to the students (finally!)

Comments:  A ceramics project is a commitment of time on the docent’s part (and the student) but it is well worth it.  The students love working with clay and its great to give them the exposure to this medium.  Ceramics projects do break – part of the deal – but they can be glued with superglue after the bisque/glaze firings.  I highly recommend trying one ceramics project a year!

Art Elements covered: Form, Shape, texture, line, color

Art Docent: Kimberly Albert

Room 14 – Gaffney, 3rd grade

The “Dot” and International Dot Day!

26 Nov

In September, Room 14 (Gaffney-3rd grd) students participated in International Dot Day.  This is a day to celebrate creativity and personal expression inspired by the well known book, “The Dot”.

The Learning Objectives of the lesson were to:

1.  Learn to explore their creativity and express themselves

2.  Have a chance to make their mark without worrying about getting it right.

3.  Develop a sense of pride in their abilities and enjoy a feeling of ownership over their creations.

We started the lesson by reading “the Dot”, by Peter Reynolds.  This is a story about a little girl who is unsure about her drawing abilities, and her teacher who encourages her to make her mark (a dot), and see where it takes her, building her confidence as an artist.

Then, Room 14 set to work on their own dots, using watercolor to create their masterpieces.  Each one of them really made their mark as no two were alike!

Lesson Materials:

Book:  The Dot, by Peter Reynolds




Resources:  This website has everything you will need for your International Dot Day Lesson

Docent:  Kimberly Albert

3-D Paper Sculptures

21 Jun

We looked at two photos of sculptures. The first is a clay sculpture by a French artist named Fernand Leger (Fernan Layzhay). Our second sculpture is from an American artist named Alexander Calder.

I asked the students to raise their hands and explain what they are observing about the two sculptures. What shapes do they see? How are the sculptures alike and different?

Sculpture facts: The Walking Flower (1951) is a clay sculpture, 261/2” x 201/2”x15”, his sculpture is symbolic, what is it a symbol of? Calder’s sculpture, The Spinner (1966), is made of aluminum, steel and oil paint and it is very big in comparison to the Walking Flower, 19.5’ x 29.25’ Calder’s subject is a nonobjective (or abstract) sculpture. It is form but doesn’t represent a recognizable object. He created his form from what shapes?

Explain the difference between 2D versus 3D or ask first to see if they already know. (show a ball versus circle and cone versus triangle) Today we will create a 3 dimensional sculpture from a 2 dimensional piece of paper. Shapes and Forms are similar in that they can be geometric or free form. However, they are different in that shapes are flat and two-dimensional (2-D). Shapes are measured by height and width. Draw a circle and a triangle on your newsprint. Forms are not flat. They are three-dimensional (3-D) and can be measured in three ways: height, width, and depth. Now see look at a cone and a ball and see how they are three-Dimensional. Sculpture is art that is three-dimensional.

This lesson is from the Level 3 Art Connections book (pg. 88).

Art Activity:

Practice our own 3D form project first on 12 X 18 Newsprint. Tell them about the cuts they have to make to form “legs” and have them practice this type of cutting. As they practice the cutting the docent reads the steps for their final piece to them. Have them use the newsprint to protect the desks from the oil pastels.
Now we will make the 3-D paper sculpture

1. Cut out a large free-form shape (just cutting around the outside edges) from a piece of black construction paper. Decorate both sides using oil pastels. Decorate with filled in shapes, stripes, curly cues or random blocks of color. Use colors that appeal to you and press firmly to create intense color.

2. Next we cut the “legs”. Do this part slowly and carefully!! Make 8-12 cuts in the paper that go from the outside towards the center. Not ALL THE WAY THROUGH, KEEP THE Paper WHOLE! Demonstrate for them.

3. Make tabs on the “legs” of the sculpture by folding the paper a little bit to provide a surface for gluing. Again, demonstrate for them.

3. Next use your chipboard (8.5 x 11) as a base and start to glue the “legs” of the paper down in different places. Glue at least four legs down and some may stay up in the air. Use a generous amount of glue stick and hold for 15 seconds. It’s tricky when you are stretching and move the paper so be patient! If a piece is not holding raise your hand and one of the adults will use a spot of liquid white glue. (our kids didn’t need this, just an occasional adult hand to hold a leg or two down while drying).

4. As you are gluing make your own creative choices as an artist. How many legs/forms will you glue down? You can bend and fold and twist the paper to make some “legs” stand in the air. Do you want lots of space in the middle of your sculpture or lots of paper? Go slowly and try just placing a form/leg down before gluing and if you don’t like it take another and try it. Play with the form!
(If there is time the student can make another 3D sculpture without a base, gluing the legs to each other).

Summary: Room 13 artists created 3 dimensional sculptures by cutting and bending 2 dimensional paper. Shapes and Forms are similar in that they can be geometric or free form. However, they are different in that shapes are flat and two-dimensional (2-D). Shapes are measured by height and width. Forms are not flat. They are three-dimensional (3-D) and can be measured in three ways: height, width, and depth. Shape and form are two of the elements (the language) of art. The other elements are line, color, texture, value and space.
Lesson Title: Form lesson – 3 D Paper sculpture
Room#, Grade, Teacher: room 13, 3rd, Vontver
Docent/s: Jill Mount

Comment: Form is an element of Art and can be expressed through three-dimensional sculptures.
Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: form, Fernand Leger & Alexander Calder
Closing Comments:

Leluja Paper Cutouts

20 May

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slideshow of Leluja cutout art

 This lesson was pulled from this awesome website (thank you for your perfect lesson!): Art for Small Hands


  • Learning about the art of Poland
  • Working with symmetry in design
  • Developing cutting skills

Click here, here, and here to see examples of Leluja paper cutouts.


  • Thin, brightly colored 9 x 12-inch paper (craft, origami, scrapbooking or Fadeless art paper)
  • Sharp scissors
  • Pencils/erasers
  • Spray adhesive or white glue/glue sticks
  • White paper for mounting
  • Stapler (optional)

Various forms of paper cutouts called wycinanki (vee-chee nun-key) originated in the 19th century in Poland. Each spring the people white-washed the walls of their homes and decorated them with the colorful cutouts. Two styles that developed in the northern area of Warsaw are gwiazdy (g-vee-azda), cut from a round piece of paper, and leluja (le-lu-ya), cut from paper folded lengthwise. In this lesson the children will learn about leluja cutouts which usually include a simplified, tree-like form in the center with a pair of birds or roosters near the bottom. These cutouts are often embellished with fanciful flowers, leaf shapes, and/or geometric patterns. When the papers are unfolded a symmetrical design is revealed.

Although these cutouts are still pasted to the walls of farmhouses in some rural villages, they are now mostly made for framing.


  • Set out colored paper, pencils, and scissors.
  • Have available examples and/or pictures of leluja paper cutouts.


  • Share the examples of  leluja paper cutouts, pointing out their traditional designs and symmetrical, or evenly balanced, patterns. Explain to the children that they will be making cutouts similar to those made by the Polish families.
  • Demonstrate how to make a leluja cutout by folding the paper lengthwise, making sure that the edge is even and the right side of the paper is folded in. Begin drawing from the folded edge of the paper which will become the center of the design. Explain that only half of the tree-like form in the center needs to be drawn because when the paper is opened it will reveal a mirror-image, or the other half. In order to keep the cutout in one piece, the line around the outer edge needs to be one continuous line that never intersects itself or cuts across the fold. Lightly shade the areas that will be cut away to ensure that the design will remain in one piece after cutting.
  • Cut the design in stages, first cutting out the lower part and then the outline of the tree. To make fringe, cut into or toward the tree-like form, removing small pieces of paper between the cuts so the design will show when the paper is laid flat. Finally, cut designs within the tree. (Extra folds within the designs can be made to cut patterns such as the veins in a leaf.)
  • When all cutting is completed, open the folded paper to reveal the symmetrical design.
  • Note: The children can use glue/glue sticks to mount the cutouts on the white paper, however spray adhesive (applied by an adult) is better for holding the edges flat. If needed, trim the white paper leaving a one- to two-inch border around the cutout.


  • It’s important for the children to see an example of leluja in order to understand the arrangement and abstract tree-like form.
  • Brightly colored art paper with one white side works especially well for these paper cutouts. Scrapbooking card stock works well since it comes in such a variety of colors and is easy to find in a larger size. Make sure the thickness is too thick.
  • The darker colors of paper make the strongest images when contrasted against the white background paper.
  • When working with younger children, it helps to staple the corners of the folded paper to keep it from slipping while they cut.
  • The fringe designs on the trees do not need to be drawn. Once the basic shape is cut out, add the fringe by cutting into the edges of the tree. Children often make a series of parallel cuts which close up when pressed flat. To avoid this problem, pieces of paper need to be removed by using either curved or v-shaped cuts.
  • If part of the design gets cut off, it can be saved and glued in place when mounting the cutout on the white paper.
  • The children are always excited when they open their papers and the symmetrical design is revealed. This project is a good confidence builder for children who may be unsure of their abilities in art.
  • When demonstrating the lesson in front of the class, spend a decent amount of time on scissor/paper cutting skills and technique. Do’s and Don’ts. Then proper mounting for display.


  • Discuss what happened to the original drawings when the folded papers were opened.
  • Point out how mirror-images create symmetrical designs.

What the children might say…

  • Do I have to put in a tree?
  • My paper keeps slipping when I try to cut two pieces together.
  • Uh oh…I cut off the chicken in my design.
  • What happened to the fancy fringe I made around my tree?
  • Do I need to use a farm animal? I was thinking of an elephant.

What you might say…

  • The center of your design should be related to a tree shape, but does not have to look like a real tree.
  • I can staple the corners of your paper together to keep it from slipping while you cut out your design.
  • If you accidentally cut off a part of your design, save it to attach later when we glue the cutouts to the white paper.
  • When cutting the decorative edge around the border of your tree, remember to cut out bits of paper from each cut so the design will show up when placed on the white paper.
  • You can decide which type of animals, plants, or flowers you’d like to use in your design.
Art Docent: Marcie Guthrie and Jim Bargfrede
Lesson Title: Mirror Image Cut Paper – Leluja
Room 7, 3rd Grade, Ms. Saltsman

Andy Goldsworthy – Art in Nature, using found and natural objects

24 Apr

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slideshow of kids nature art

Objective: To introduce the works of naturalist artist Andy Goldsworthy, and to create art using natural elements in and around the school, after which their art will be photographed


**MAKE SURE YOU’VE TOLD THE TEACHER THAT YOU’LL BE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM FOR THE ART EXPERIENCE. Maybe scope out with teacher a suitable outside area to scavenge/set up the art.

Ask the students if they have ever made a sand castle or drawn designs in the sand? Have they ever made a snowman or snow angel? Sometimes creating art is very much like playing and exploring. Many artists are inspired by the beauty in nature: the colors, lines, shapes, textures and compositions. Some artists use paint or clay as their medium to make art; others, like Andy Goldsworthy, use nature itself.

“I enjoy the freedom of just using my hands and “found” tools – a sharp stone, the quill of a feather, thorns. I take the opportunities each day offers: if it is snowing, I work with snow, at leaf-fall it will be with leaves; a blown-over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches. I stop at a place or pick up a material because I feel that there is something to be discovered. Here is where I can learn.” -Andy Goldsworthy

This is also a great lesson to use to introduce a few elements of art: composition (the way the artist chooses to arrange his subject), balance, and color. Ask the kids, as you show the slides, what they notice about how Andy Goldsworthy uses color, composition, and balance. (Look for contrast in colors – compositions all seemed very balanced – lots of circles, or patterns that looked like they were inspired by nature).

Show power point slides of Andy Goldsworthy’s work.

If roaming the school grounds for materials: Have the students pair up in groups of three or four. Take the students outside. Have them gather natural materials that are visually appealing. Look for different colors and different size leaves, rocks, sticks, dirt, etc.

If AD’s have collected their own materials, go to a central area where kids can spread out enough to have a space that is their own.

Have the students create an arrangement out of the natural things they have found. Take close up pictures of their completed work, with written name on white strip of paper near piece for identification.

Element/Principles of Art: Texture, Color, Shape, Balance

Vocabulary: Environmental Art: site specific work in the landscape using nature itself as a “found object”, as both subject and raw material. Composition: the way an artist chooses to arrange subject.


Start early gathering a variety of materials to have on hand:

All colors of beans and dried green peas, Birdseed, Sand

Pea gravel or other larger amounts of small to medium rocks

Leaves – fall or evergreen

Colorful petals or flower heads (dandelions ok), Grass fronds (ornamental grass trimmings)

Seed heads from the fall, Twigs – any shape or size (cool mosses on them all the better)

clumps of moss, Beach glass, Shells, Small pinecones, Berries

• Bowls to carry their items

• White strips of paper for kid’s names – will put next to art piece before photo taken.

• Digital camera to take pictures of final finished pieces before clean-up

Print used:

Book on Andy Goldsworthy’s work, plus Scholastic Art April/May 2005 issue

Conclusion: This was the most fun I have had at a lesson. And I’ve had some fun over the years. The kids LOVED being outside, they connected with nature, found their own creative way to express their form of art and in the end understood that this style of art is temporary. They enjoyed what the created and were ok when it was swept up. Beautiful pictures were taken as memories of a fun afternoon.

Art Docent: Marcie Guthrie and Jim Bargfrede
Lesson Title: Andy Goldsworthy – Art in Nature
Room 7, 3rd Grade, Ms. Saltsman

The Nature of Emotions Color Wheel

2 Mar

I wanted to share this link that was passed on to me by fellow Art Docent, Jim Bargfrede. He used it as reference for a color lesson in room 7.

(click on pics for a closer look at the students work, and the written “emotion” they were painting.)

The kids were instructed to think of an event in their lives that stirred up emotions. Then asked to paint with watercolors their “emotions”. They were not to paint any sort of recognizable form or figure, but rather motions and movements with color that conveyed their emotion at the time of this event in their lives.

I loved this lesson, I love this special “emotion” color wheel. Thanks Jim for the lesson!

Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: color – showed various works of art that portrayed all types of emotions through color

Art Docents: Jim Bargfrede

Rm: 7, Ms. Saltsman, 3rd grade

Feb. 2012 lesson