So, here we go.
The end of the school year is when I pass out the portfolio of work back to students and ask them what was their best piece and worst piece. It gives me an idea of which projects are worth doing again or not. My school's art curriculum is structured strongly around art history, and I try to connect with contemporary art and artists whenever possible. I've also tried to develop lessons for my middle schoolers that will have a significant level of choice and individual expression.
- My museum: Our 5th graders were lucky to have the chance to visit the Barnes Foundation at the beginning of the school year. To prepare them for their trip we learned about Barnes'symmetrical ensembles, the job of a curator, and the different genre of art. They arranged their own museum galleries using printouts of some of the images from the Barnes collection, and drawing a 1 pt perspective room with museum details like lighting, signs, visitors, and guards. When complete, they critiqued them by deciding which museum they would most want to visit and why.
- Masterpiece Mashup: Delving in further into the collections at the Barnes, my students talked about what art they liked best, and selected 2 images from postcards from the Barnes to mashup into their own unique masterpiece. Although.. it appears that this one was sparked by arms and armor and a George Segal from the PMA-my postcard collection must have been a little mixed up. hen complete, the students decided how to display their masterpieces in a Barnsian ensemble. (ps-I hate oil pastel.)
- Hex signs: Taking one last inspiration from the Barnes, we explored hex signs. When Barnes couldn't import art from abroad during WWII he turned to local handicrafts for his collection. Since our state standards require us to introduce PA art and artists, this hex sign project was perfect. These symbols are found all over Southeastern Pennsylvania on the barns of PA Dutch farmers. My students were eager to share their experiences seeing them on trips out into Lancaster county. We were also able to learn radial design, geometric shapes, and color symbolism.
- Self-portrait monoprints: This is one of my favorite projects in 5th grade, because printmaking is so much fun. We combined monoprinting (markers on plexiglass laid over photo printouts, traced, and printed)and texture rubbings for the backgrounds) We talk about emotional color and mood. Some students enjoy utilizing more than one of their prints to express different sides of their personality.
- Still-life relief prints: our printmaking adventure continued with foam relief prints. I let students choose to draw their own object or use a magazine image for inspiration. They carved their foam and printed. Those who were ambitious carved for a reduction print or cut out part of the foam for a puzzle block color effect. I liked how the process allowed for differentiation. It was simple enough for my lower students with levels of progressive difficulty for my higher students. Some chose to alter their prints by coloring them with colored pencils as well.
- National Parks landscape stamp design: I've done similar versions of this project before. Sometimes it's famous landmarks, or state symbols. In honor of the anniversary of the National Park system this year, I assigned each student a different National Park to research. We went to the computer lab and researched images of the landscape, the animals, and the plant life to use in a stamp design. This was an opportunity to connect with science and ecology, as well as with social studies and geography. One class did this project as a watercolor pencil painting, and another did it as a photoshop collage. The digital versions were much more successful and related with the concept of design.
- Face jugs: I found an excellent video on PBS History detectives on Edgemont, SC pottery to introduce my students to the tradition of face jugs. I also shared a video read-along of the story of Dave the Potter. Our face jug project even tied back into the Barnes collection and his African Masks. (I love it when I can tie together all sorts of connections in a project!!!) I taught my students to make a pinch-pot base and coiled body for a simple pot, then scoring, slipping, smoothing clay to attach the features. This is the first time in K-8 our students get to work with real clay, since there is no kiln in our elementary building. When complete we used our jugs for a cereal or OJ breakfast and talked about what forms are better for which purpose.
- Narrative Collage: For a literacy connection, my students learned about storytelling in art. We looked to Pieter Breughel for inspiration, then created a magazine collage with a setting, character, and action.Once complete, students chose to write a story to accompany their picture or to draw a before or after picture to show sequence, cause and effect, or problem/solution. My students really struggled with the collage aspect. I think next year I should try it as a cartooning unit instead,
- Art History Zine: I don't get to see my 5th graders during PSSA testing due to rescheduling, so while they were with my sub I assigned each student an artist throughout at history to research. They had to find an image, 3 biographical facts, and a quote. I tried to select a range of women and men of a variety of cultures fora diverse selection. Students then drew a comic book-like bio page using their research for reference. Once I got them back I photocopied each student's page, and had them choose up to 5 pages they would like to use to make a small zine. They origami-folded each pamphlet and glued them together into a book with covers. They made a title page and book review on the covers, as a final touch. I also sent home permission slips to see if my students could have their work donated to our local zine library- the Soapbox. I created one big 20 page zine using the images they drew to donate. I liked how this project involved research, cartooning, book arts, and public art ideas.
- My Philadelphia Story: My students were invited to participate in a public art project that will be installed at the Philadelphia International Airport. I visited the studios of Matthew Alden Price and Won Kyoung Lee to learn more about it. Then had my students draw pictures and bring objects to donate that reflected their experience of the city of Philadelphia. The Phillies, The Eagles, the Mummers, softball, skateboarding, bike life, and dance are the things my students love the best about their city.
- My favorite genre: to conclude our study of various genre of art and techniques this year,I challenged my students to select what type of picture they preferred (portrait, still life, landscape, narrative, abstract, or public) and the 2D medium they preferred (pencil, marker, paint, pastel) to create a final personal work of art. This one started as a still-life of a duck decoy, but then he added the pond and reflection around it. I was so proud of my students and their engagement in this final project. Many reported this as being their favorite project because they really felt like artists making decisions.
I'm pleased with how the 5th grade curriculum has developed. I understand the big picture and purpose of how the projects to together and use an essential question to drive the learning. I believe we will continue to work with these themes next year. I would like to do more observational drawing practice with next year's 5th graders to bridge the awkward middle school belief in drawing ability. They don't THINK they know how to draw. They need more opportunities to try. I've shared 10 of the 13 projects we did together in 5th grade this year. Two years ago I lamented how little work we'd accomplished in one year. In comparison, this year 5th grade art was a brilliant success!