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Turning Kids on to Art

We often think of kids as creative, uninhibited, curious and receptive to new activities. Well, they are. But they may resist when teachers rely on traditional art lessons like construction paper cutouts, or stretch them too far with projects that only stress or embarrass students.

Art shouldn’t be boring or stressful, but capture students’ interest. And integrating art projects into lessons in other subjects like history, literature or science is a great place to start. Younger students are energized by activities that engage their motor and social skills. Luckily, the Internet makes it easy to access new art project ideas for introducing students to art. Art teachers exchange free lesson ideas to inspire each other and keep art class exciting.

  1. Drawing Emotions from Teach Art Ideas

    In this lesson, students become more familiar with emotions and the colors with which they are commonly associated.

    Introduce the project by asking students to brainstorm different emotions. Write them on the board. Pointing to each emotion, ask students what the emotions feel like. Which emotion do they like least or best?

    • Have each student choose an emotion to capture in a painting or drawing. It might help their progress if you suggest that they draw an animal, individual or scene that evokes anger, joy, etc.
    • When finished, compare pictures that depict the same emotion. Discuss their similarities and differences in color, form and interpretation.
    • Encourage a wider discussion about how we associate certain emotions with certain imagery. Be sure to support variations from the norm. Some students may have paired colors and emotions in different ways. In fact, you may want to have them create a new picture based on novel color/emotion pairings like: purple=rage, red=peace, and so on.

     
    This lesson can be easily adapted for more advanced students by using different mediums, or by lengthening the duration of the project over a week or two.

  2. Recycled Art from Teacher Vision

    This project encourages students to consider the artistic value in recycling beyond its environmental significance.

    As a class, brainstorm items that can be made from discarded objects. Challenge them to imagine using these recycled items, like a dress made of light bulbs, or a backpack made from bike tubes. Have them research contemporary artists who are making art or fashion objects by recycling materials for ideas You might give students a week’s advance notice to bring objects from home.

    Students will make art pieces from found objects such as:

    • Bubble wrap
    • Cardboard
    • Bicycle tire tubes
    • Dead batteries
    • Aluminum foil

    The project can vary in length from 1-2 weeks. On the first day have students begin designing their art pieces. But make sure they have a reasonable plan by the end of the class period.

    This could be a great opportunity to introduce artists who work with found material such as 20th-century American artists Louise Nevelson or Robert Rauschenberg. Alternatively, you may want to move the focus the value of recycled art, what statements such pieces make and how they encourage people to live a more environmentally conscious life.

  3. Mirror Image from Incredible @rt Department

    This lesson stimulates students’ recall ability and pushes their social comfort zone. Students will gain a better grasp on their understanding of perspective.

    Offer various art materials such as charcoal, pastels, pencils, or even an iPad sketch application to encourage students to rely on their intuition. Each student draws a self-portrait by using a mirror in class. Give them plenty of time to complete this section.

    On the second day, students will recreate their self-renderings without the mirror. Encourage them to move away from the memory of their image in order to depict themselves as they feel. Set these drawings aside.

    Organize the classroom into pairs, and ask each student to draw their partner, using a realistic, abstract or impressionist approach, as they feel fit. The students draw each other simultaneously.

    To conclude, students share the three portrayals: two self-portraits and one portrait done by their partner. Have them discuss the differences in perspective, how various materials affect each piece.

  4. Image as Metaphor from the J. Paul Getty Museum

    In this art activity, students will become more familiar with the abstract literary and art term ‘metaphor’. They will be challenged to discuss how metaphor is used in writing and visually.

    Begin by sharing a photo by Steve McCurry, for example, then discuss its relationship to the concept of metaphor. Ask the students what they see, think and feel when they look at the photograph.

    Then students will write for approximately 15 minutes about their personal metaphor. Encourage them to keep writing even when the get stuck. Next, they will create a work of art that expresses visually what they explored in writing

    Provide a number of materials including old magazines and newspapers, pencils, paint, and so on. Upon completion, ask students to present their art.

  5. Synesthetic Art

    First, have the students quickly name the senses and how they are important in creating art. Then, introduce the condition synesthesia. The University of Washington has an easily accessible website with links to tests and other resources.

    Present an artist who uses their condition to express their way of being in the world through art. American painter, Carol Steen, for example, has grapheme-color synesthesia. She feels colors while viewing letters and numbers, hearing music, and feeling pain.

    For fun, read the alphabet at a rate of about one letter every 3 seconds. Make sure all students have access to crayons or colored pencils. After each letter is read, ask students to record on paper the letter in the color they feel. Collect the papers.

    Repeat the experiment. Two to three weeks later, repeat the experiment again, but read the letters randomly. Compare week #1 answers with week #2. Synesthetes will have all or most of the same letter-color pairs for both weeks.

    You could also create a playlist of classical music that will last the full duration of the class. Instructs students to paint or draw in colored pencils according to how they ‘see’ the music. This can be a fun exercise to wrap up the lesson on synesthesia.

    As you can see, art can be made from just about anything, and about just about everything. And the more outside-the-box, the better. Get some trash, talk about feelings, make some art!

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