Found Object Sculptures 

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

Inspired by Louise Nevelson, second graders created a found object sculpture by working with their classmates. They could bring in an object or choose an object; then they chose where they wanted to glue it and voted on what color the artwork should be painted.

PowerPoint: Found Object Sculpture

Parent Letter: Found Object Letter (Edit it with your school’s info)

Art Display Sign: Found Object Sign

Supplies:

  • Small objects
  • Cardboard box lids
  • Hot glue
  • Donated spray paint

 

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

At every Showcase, I display a piece of collaborative artwork that the classes worked on together. Sometimes, it comes together as one large mural-type display. Sometimes, four students will work together to create poster-sized art. Because the second grade Showcase was scheduled for January, I planned a project that they could complete in one art rotation.

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Sky Cathedral, Louise Nevelson, 1958

I started by sending letters home with my students, after we talked about Louise Nevelson and found object art. I emphasized that they would not be getting their objects back and that the object needed to be small enough that it could fit in your pocket. I had bags for each second grade homeroom so that kids could give their object to me early. By pure luck, I happened to have recess duty that week, so I also collected their objects in the morning.

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

I emailed the faculty and staff at our school, asking for donations of partially used spray paint. We ended up with so many contributions! I also scavenged in my classroom and found a bunch of random objects that students could choose from if they forgot to bring an object. I asked the office to save a few cardboard lids from our paper boxes. It was pretty cool to be creating a project using all donated and free supplies!

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

On the day of the project, we started by talking about found object art and voting on what color the class wanted their sculpture to be spray painted. They chose between two different colors.  I have three 2nd grade classes each day, so I recorded each class’ vote and explained that the color with 2 or more votes would win.

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

During class, I had a drawing project that they were working on at their tables. I called up one group at a time and had them show me where they wanted their object glued. After I put the hot glue on the right spot, they could choose to place their object themselves.

 

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

At the end of each day, I spray painted the artwork the color that the classes had chosen. For our Showcase, I used a staple gun to secure them to the wall. (Another reason to encourage kids to bring small objects! There were a couple of sculptures I was afraid were going to be too heavy.)

Create a Found Object Sculpture using small objects, a box lid, hot glue and spray paint.

It was so much fun to see the second graders talking about the sculptures with their families at the Showcase. There were big groups of people who stood and observed the art for a long time! The students were so excited to search and find the object they had added.

 

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Installation Art

Create installation art using everyday materials and change the way people see a space.

Elementary art students worked together to create installation art using everyday materials and displayed them on campus.

PowerPoint: Installation Art

Art Display Sign: Installation Art Sign

Safety Pledge: Hot Glue Pledge

Supplies: Whatever extra stuff you have crowding your cabinets!

Create installation art using everyday materials and change the way people see a space.

For our art program, I needed to do two things: 1) Fill in the weird schedule gap caused by our Field Days. 2) Use up the boxes of donated supplies that I wasn’t going to be able to move to our new school. Installation art was the perfect solution!

I started by grouping our supplies into sets that would work well together. I had pipe cleaners, foam shapes, cardboard tubes, art straws, wooden blocks, popsicle sticks and bamboo skewers. The foam shapes worked well with the pipe cleaners and skewers. For the other materials, I gave each table an adhesive, like masking tape or hot glue.

Create installation art using everyday materials and change the way people see a space.

About a week before we started, I set up a hot glue station at the back of the room. Kiddos who finished their art project early helped glue the popsicle sticks into triangles and squares. Having those pieces ready to go really streamlined the building process.

Create installation art using everyday materials and change the way people see a space.

I made a very big deal about the hot glue safety rules! Each students had to sign the Safety Pledge and wear gloves to protect their hands from accidents. (I was thrilled to find kid-sized gardening gloves at the Target Dollar Spot!)

Create installation art using everyday materials and change the way people see a space.

On the first day, each table brainstormed about how they were going to use the materials and where they would want the sculpture displayed. At the end of each class, they wrote a note for the kids who would be at their table next.

Create installation art using everyday materials and change the way people see a space.

I changed the set-up of the tables as each of the sculptures got to a new step or were completed. By the end of the week, the cardboard tube sculpture took up 3 different tables: one for taping, one for painting the outside and one for painting the inside.

We installed the sculptures in waves; as soon as one was finished, I would assign a table to take the pieces outside and secure it in the ground. Bamboo skewers and tape helped to hold up some of the more flexible artwork. The students taped laminated signs about installation art to the sides of some old magazine holders. Bamboo skewers were able to keep the sign boxes in place.

The installation art made quite a splash! The students were so excited to see the finished projects they had helped with. Teachers and parents also commented on how much they enjoyed the artwork. It was a fun way to introduce an new art concept to our school’s community.

Writing Responses to Showcase Artwork 

Fourth graders visited the Showcase and wrote about a piece of artwork created by a second grader.

Fourth graders visited the second grade Showcase. They chose a piece of artwork that was interesting to them and wrote a response.

PowerPoint: Showcase Response

Writing Handout: 2nd Writing Response3rd Writing Response4th Writing Response

Fourth graders visited the Showcase and wrote about a piece of artwork created by a second grader.

It is such a huge undertaking to hang up 300+ pieces of artwork. This year I decided to use our Showcase as a learning experience across grade levels. I created handouts that my 4th graders could use to reflect on the artwork they saw at the 2nd grade Showcase. My plan is to have each grade level write about the artwork they see at another grade’s Showcase.

Fourth graders visited the Showcase and wrote about a piece of artwork created by a second grader.

I started the class by going over the questions with my students. I emphasized that what they wrote was their opinion – there weren’t any right or wrong answers.

Fourth graders visited the Showcase and wrote about a piece of artwork created by a second grader.

Before making my PowerPoint, I talked with a group of 4th grade teachers to find out what would be helpful for me to reinforce in our art writing assignment. They told me they are working on having the kids write in complete sentences, with a capital letter at the beginning and a period at the end.

Fourth graders visited the Showcase and wrote about a piece of artwork created by a second grader.

After reviewing those three criteria with my classes, I told them that we were having a writing contest. I would be picking a few excellent responses to hang in the hallway alongside the art they had written about. Their writing had to meet the three criteria in order to qualify for the contest.

Fourth graders visited the Showcase and wrote about a piece of artwork created by a second grader.

It was amazing what a huge motivator the contest was! I had them list out the three criteria they had to meet and offered to check their writing at the end to see if it it would qualify. I have never had so many students eager to get their answers written correctly!

Fourth graders visited the Showcase and wrote about a piece of artwork created by a second grader.

Before we walked over to the Showcase, we had a quick Circle Time about art show etiquette. I was so proud that they were respectful of the artwork and were calm and focused while they wrote. As they finished writing, they sat down along a wall and got to free draw on the back of their paper.

Fourth graders visited the Showcase and wrote about a piece of artwork created by a second grader.

I tried to keep everyone in one section of the hallway, for crowd control. But I did make exceptions for students who had a younger sibling whose artwork was displayed on the other side. It was such a great motivator for them to be able to write about art done by someone they know!

Fourth graders visited the Showcase and wrote about a piece of artwork created by a second grader.

It was so much fun reading through their responses! I chose about 15-20 to display in the hallway next to the artwork that the student had chosen to write about. It warmed my heart to see students stopping and reading the responses. It was such a great way to connect art and writing while also making connections between our students!

Kandinsky Circles

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

A collaborative art project for 2nd graders – students painted circles inspired by Kandinsky’s artwork.

Supplies:

  • Colorful poster board, 12″ x 12″
  • Tempera paint
  • Paintbrushes

For Hanging:

  • Staple gun
  • Staple Remover (This kind of staple remover has saved me so much time and frustration!)

PowerPoint: Kandinsky Circle

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

My goal last year was to display one collaborative piece of artwork at each Showcase. For our last Showcase, I included all of the grade levels I was teaching to create a large mural-like display. We began by observing paintings by Kandinsky. My students talked about what the two paintings had in common and how they were different.

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

I did a short demonstration about layering colors to mix them right onto the poster board. Then I set the kids free to paint. They had very few limitations – I asked them to create a painting inspired by the artwork they saw on the board. They got to choose what kind of shapes, colors and composition they used. Some students created realistic paintings, but most created something abstract, like Kandinsky’s artwork.

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

The best organizational decision I made for this project was to have each class paint on the same color poster board. It made passing the artwork back infinitely easier! While I was hanging the artwork, I happened to do it in waves because I had three classes that were finishing their artwork just a couple days before the Showcase. I really liked the “gradient” effect that the larger piece ended up with because I hung it two or three classes at a time.

Elementary students paint artwork inspired by Kandinsky.

It was liberating for the kids to create a project in one day. Many of them were the most excited about experimenting with creating new colors. At the Showcase I had a lot of kids stand in front of our mural and search for their piece. They were so excited to point it out to their families!

 

Embracing Chance with Circle Art

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A collaborative art project that revolves around the element of chance – second graders worked with their table to create sculptures using colorful paper scraps they chose randomly.

Supplies:

  • Long scraps of construction paper
  • Cardboard
  • Paint
  • Art Paste

Downloadable PowerPoint: 2nd Circle Sculptures

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My original inspiration for this project was to use up paper scraps. I saw photos on Art Actually and was excited to alter the project for my 2nd graders. As I started prepping for it, the core goal became to help 2nd graders embrace chance while teaching them about abstract sculpture. I couldn’t be more thrilled with how well the kids responded and how incredible the finished product looks.

Students create abstract sculptures using paper and art paste.

I did the project over two class periods. The first day I combined prepping the cardboard with finishing our last project. We started by looking at Lee Gainer’s artwork; the kids made observations about what they noticed. Then, each table got a piece of cardboard and wrote their table name and teacher name on the back. Then, I walked around the room and had the students randomly pull out four colors and tape them to the back of their cardboard. I explained that these would be the colors they would use to make circles

Students create abstract sculptures using paper and art paste.

Choosing the 4 colors was the first “chance” element and it went over really well. I had a couple of kids say, “Oh I don’t like this color.” But once I causally said, “Well, it’s kind of like a surprise, isn’t it?” they were okay with not being able to choose. The next “chance” element was the paint. I had six closed containers of paint and I asked one person from each table to come pick a container. That was the color they used to paint their cardboard. This step was a little crazy because I had tables finishing at different times. Once a table finished and cleaned up, I had that group start drawing sketchbook pages, which helped to keep them focused.

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There was a bit of prep work for the second day; I spent 15 minutes before each class organizing cups of paper according to the pieces each table had taped onto their cardboard. This made the actual class time go so much smoother. I also mixed up the paste a couple weeks early because I was using a brand I hadn’t tried before. It was a weird chunky mess for several days. I was finally able to smooth it out using a paint stirrer attachment on my drill.

Students create abstract sculptures using paper and art paste.

I did a demo for each class and showed them how to wrap the paper strips around a pencil. I emphasized that you have the “let it grow” by taking it off the pencil and letting go of it. If they dipped it into the paste before doing this step, it would unravel with the paste dripping everywhere, which could get messy! I was surprised that I actually had to encourage them to dip their circles deeper into the paste. Many of them had a tendency to not get enough paste on the bottom of the circle. I also went around with a paintbrush and added a little extra paste to circles that looked like they were about to fall off.

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The finished artwork took several days to dry completely. They definitely took over my classroom for the week! Once they were dry, I was able to hang them up for our Showcase. I used command strips and a staple gun, in the future I think I would just use the staple gun. It was cheaper and held the artwork up better. The cardboard curls as it dries, so I tried to staple them on the two points that naturally touched the wall, so that it didn’t strain the art and cause the circles to pop off.

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Displayed together, these had an incredible visual impact. The kids loved looking at them as they walked to lunch and so many teacher commented on how cool it looked. It was one of those rare projects where both the process and the end product are fantastic!

 

 

 

Color Theory Branches

Elementary students used color theory to paint branches as a collaborative project.

Students in third and fourth grade classes worked collaboratively to paint branches using analogous and complementary color schemes.

Supplies:

  • Tempera paint
  • Big and small brushes
  • 6 or more branches
  • Dental floss
  • Binder clips or small metal hook

Downloadable Sign: Color Theory

Downloadable PowerPoint: Collaborative Branches

Every quarter I get to collaborate with the Music and GT teacher to put on a Showcase for our students. I let my students choose two pieces of artwork from their portfolio, they help me mat it and we hang it in the hallways for a week.

Elementary students used color theory to paint branches as a collaborative project.
I like to have a collaborative project that changes every quarter. I use the same curriculum each quarter, so having a project that changes helps to break up the monotony of teaching the same assignments again and again. And it means there is a surprise installation that the school gets to look forward to each Showcase.

Elementary students used color theory to paint branches as a collaborative project.

Last quarter, I made a center for two Fridays in a row where the students worked together to create a branch as a class. Instead of introducing an artist, we spent the beginning of class talking about color theory. The first week, we talked about analogous colors, and they painted the base layer. The second week, we talked about complementary colors and they added dots and lines to their branch. (I compared the dots and lines to sprinkles on a cake, so that the base color would still show through.)

Elementary students used color theory to paint branches as a collaborative project.

I was able to find 6 branches to use by walking around the yard outside our school. The biggest prep component was mixing up the analogous colors for the first day. I mixed the whole set and then covered them with empty trays so they wouldn’t dry out. If you have more time or older students, you could have them mix the colors.

I learned from the first class to give the students separate brushes for each color. The water thinned out the tempera paint so much that it lost it’s vibrancy.

Elementary students used color theory to paint branches as a collaborative project.

I displayed them two different ways. For the Showcase, I tied dental floss (that stuff is an amazing, cheap way to hang art!) to each branch and used a binder clip to hang them from an outside ledge. Then, I retired them to a blank wall by the GT teacher’s room by tying all of them dental floss together and using and looping it over a metal hook. Displaying them as group definitely made a stronger visual statement. (Spreading them out made them stand out less.)

I hung up a laminated sign that explained how the students had used color theory. I hope that as students and teachers walk by, they will get to learn something new also!

Elementary students used color theory to paint branches as a collaborative project.

This was such a fun project to do, and an exciting way to introduce my 3rd and 4th graders to color theory. I love how the branches look in the outdoor spaces that we displayed them. I couldn’t have done the hanging part without help from the music teacher, so I highly recommend asking someone to assist you!

 

 

 

 

Eagle Challenge

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

As an art teacher, sometimes I bristle when people ask me to make “decorations.” There are a few exceptions – I am always excited to do a unit on papel picado for Cinco de Mayo. When the music teacher told me about a concert the symphony would be putting on for the community at our school  and asked if the art students would like to be involved, I jumped at the chance!

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

She told me that one of the themes of the concert was going to be the eagle. I decided to create a challenge assignment for the students and leave the medium and interpretation of the eagle up to them.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

It was incredible to see how many different directions the students took their ideas. I made a list of possible media on the board and let them decide if they wanted to work alone or with a partner.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

Because the art was going to be viewed from far away, I made one of the limitations of the challenge be that their artwork had to be at least 12″ X 18″ – many students went much larger than that.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

The artwork turned out incredible! Having it displayed along the walls when the symphony played made a big impact. It was a great opportunity for a lot of them to work with larger pieces of paper.

Eagle Challenge - Students' interpretations of the eagle, using their choice of materials.

Supplies:   Watercolors, Lino-cut materials, Chalk pastels, Sharpies, Colored pencil