High school students design a solution to the challenge “Create a piece of artwork using only paper and adhesives.”
Paper (Construction, card stock, origami, etc.),
Adhesives (Glue, tape, staples, etc.)
At the beginning of the second semester, I decided I wanted to try something new. With such small classes, I felt like I could open up the projects so that students had more room to explore. I came up with the idea of presenting assignments as “challenges.”
The first challenge they did was simple: I asked them to create a piece of artwork using only paper and adhesives.
In order to get their brains thinking of ideas, I showed them a PowerPoint filled with examples of artwork that were made out of paper. I made it very broad so that they could see how many different directions they could take their project. I didn’t leave the PowerPoint up while they sketched because I wanted to encourage them to come up with their own solution instead of copying another project exactly.
Another way I helped them to think of ideas was to list examples of all the different kinds of paper and adhesives that we had in the room. If a student was stuck coming up with an initial idea, I would help them begin to narrow it down by asking them if they wanted to make a 3D or 2D piece of artwork.
Instead of requiring them to do a sketch first, I told them they could choose between sketching or experimenting with an idea. I was impressed by how many of them took their experiment seriously and came up with some very cool results.
I decided to try a new concept for my clay project this year. When it was time to teach the element of Form, I started the class off with a PowerPoint of a wide variety of figurines. I showed them examples of animal and human figurines from ancient cultures. Then I showed them a wide variety of figurines that were created by current artists. (Downloadable PowerPoint: Clay Figurines)
I opened up the definition of “figurine” to be any small object that was around 4-6 inches tall. I told students that their project didn’t have to be realistic. Many students came up with some very interesting abstract forms.
We started the process by talking about basic hand-building techniques, like scoring, sliping, and hollowing out clay. I was so excited to open up the kiln to see that every single student’s artwork was intact! (Another big advantage to clay figurines is that I was able to fit them all into one load.)
It was interesting to see what students came up with as their subject. I was impressed with the wide variety of ideas they had.
This was their first experience using clay in my class. I wanted them to get excited about the medium without being overwhelmed. The size limitation meant that they could really take their time and put a lot of detail in their work.
Some students were able to finish early enough that they had time to create another clay project. I let them choose if they wanted to work on another figurine or move on to making a functional clay project.
During the second semester, it has been amazing to see how my students have used the different materials and techniques I’ve introduced to them to create Independent Projects. This student began a painting of butterflies using acrylic paint. She was stuck deciding what to do for the background. At the end of class she grabbed a couple pieces of paper, asked for some oil pastels, and said she knew exactly what she was going to do. She came to my room the next morning to show me the finished project!
This is a special piece of artwork because it marks the transition of one of my seniors. First semester, I had a conversation with him – “I know art isn’t your thing, but you have to pass this class to graduate.” He stopped laying his head down in class and slowly started engaging in the assignments. This Independent Project is the beginning of him really embracing his creative side. We had just finished making paper-cut artwork. He created the painting and decided to use an Xacto knife to carve designs out of it.
I love watching my students explore new techniques on their own. A student in my 4th period class told me that he wanted to try transferring photographs to pieces of wood. I showed him how to do it, and the project took off like wildfire. I’ve had 5 students in that class create a wood transfer of their own photograph. What I love about this project is the way it connects with my students’ everyday lives. This student used a photograph of her quinceanera.
The wood transfer process is fairly easy, but does take several days to complete. This video is an excellent guide if you are doing it for the first time. If you ask your local print shop to print the photo out as an “engineer print” it is much cheaper and the paper is thinner, which makes it easier to scrub off. After the students scrubbed off all the paper and let it dry, I had them finish it with several coats of furniture polish.
When my student told me he wanted to paint a valve cover to display in his room, I had no idea what process he should use. He did some research on the internet and talked to our Auto-tech teacher to figure out his plan. I loved that this project gave him the opportunity to experience what professional artists do when they have an idea, but aren’t sure of how to proceed. He painstakingly taped sections so they would stay raw metal and then spray painted the rest.
When I taught middle school, I had a system where my students could earn time by cleaning up quickly or answering questions. They could use the time they earned for Free Art Friday. When I started teaching high school, I wanted to have a similar system. However, I wanted my students to be more focused and create more polished pieces. I came up with the idea of Independent Projects.
When students finish a project early, they begin working on an Independent Project. For these projects, they have the freedom to choose any subject they want. They can also choose to use any of the materials that we have already used in class.
Each students has a folder that is filled with notebook paper for our writing assignments. They keep any unfinished Independent Projects in the pockets of their folder. This makes it easy for them to have something extra to work on, without them having to finish that project in just a day or two.
Once we finish a class project, I schedule a day that is just for Independent Projects. This gives everyone time to focus on their individual artwork, and it also allows students who were absent to catch up with the class. Independent Projects have helped so much with classroom management. One of the challenges of teaching Art is that there is such a wide range of paces that students work at. Having something meaningful for students to work on if they finish early means that they are still engaged, which keeps them from misbehaving out of boredom.
Part of their mid-term exam grade was to take an Independent Project that they had started and finish it or polish it up. (The other part of the grade was to write about if they thought an image was art or not, using the Elements of Art to support their case.) Some students decided to start a new project and finish it in the extra time we had for the exam.