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Friday, January 25, 2013


Radial Symmetry with Mandalas

I've recently introduced Mandalas to my 6th graders.  I started with a PowerPoint about their history and significance in various cultures as well as the art world (let me know if you'd like my PowerPoint for your own use).  After the PowerPoint we talked about the things we had learned and the characteristics of Mandalas.  We defined 'radial symmetry' and discussed lines, shapes and patterns before diving into our own creations.  I had them come up to the dry erase board and draw as many different types of lines and shapes that they could come up with to get some ideas flowing.

The students each start with a 12"x12" sheet of white drawing paper and fold it in half in all possible directions (that's four folds, kids!). I show them the example below but make sure that they know I only drew the lines so that they could see where I had folded my paper, they are not to draw the lines in their creases.

How and where to fold paper for radial symmetry

We then discuss our options for how to start our Mandalas.  I let them know that they will be creating one design inside of just one of these newly formed triangles.  However, we will repeat the design for our radial symmetry and it will look completely different (think kaleidoscopes) in the end. 

I suggest that they go with either a series of interesting lines and shapes to fill space (in just one triangle) or using their name or a word (sports teams are popular in my current class) in block/bubble letters that stretch to fill the entire triangle.  I emphasize that neither option has lines drawn inside of our fold creases, but both have lines that stretch from one edge of the triangle to another. I show them what these might look like at the end of this step.
Lines and Shapes option for Mandala

Name or Words option for Mandala
The beauty of this lesson is that they all come out so completely differently!  It gives my students a chance to make their own artistic decisions while still demonstrating an understanding for the elements and principles of art and design! 
After they have drawn inside of one triangle I gather them around and show them how to simply fold their paper in half so that their drawing is on the inside.  We look closely and see how our lines show through to the back a little bit and trace over them so that the graphite transfers from one side of the paper to the next, giving us a faint mirror image which we can trace over to make it stand out more.

After darkening their lines so that they have two triangles filled in nicely, they will fold their paper in a new direction so that their designs are still on the inside.  They can now trace over the back of both of these triangles to transfer two sections at once. 

I continue the fold/transfer process so that I can trace over the same two sections (once I've traced them, those lines are easy to see and retrace) so that they fill the remaining spaces in radial symmetry
Fold diagonally and trace then repeat  to complete the Mandala

 The lines and shapes version will come out something along these lines
The names or words version will come out like this one

Students then get to choose their medium of choice.  These can be completed any way you would like, however, I have carpet in my room so I don't offer paint for this project.  I do offer colored pencils, crayons, markers, pastels and drawing/shading pencils.  I demonstrate how to use each medium and its effects and allow the students to make their own decisions. 

Below I've uploaded some finished examples I have currently but I will be sure to upload more students' work as soon as they are complete.  Please contact me know if you have any questions!
This student used colored pencils and some shading skills
This student used drawing pencils and  shading skills

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Art Contests

Student Art Contests

Science.  Nature.  Art.   Did your mind just explode?  I think mine did with all of the excitement from those three topics in combination!  What more could you ask for, really?

As an art teacher, I get emails about art contests constantly; some for health awareness purposes, some for businesses, the list goes on and on.  I know a lot of art teachers that incorporate some of the contests into their lesson planning but I like to offer them as side projects.  If I see students with free time (a lot of students finish their homework during class work time so they wind up with idle hands in study hall) or if I know someone with a general interest in art making would like something to work on at home, I suggest that students submit some artwork for one of the contests going on. 

Lately I had a lot of interest in one contest being put on by the Space Foundation and, where I upload my 6th graders' artwork. The kids (and myself included) are drawn to this one mainly because, as one of my students put it, "Space is awesome." And I'm sure my friend, Emilee who works at the Des Moines Science Center would agree whole heartedly. The contest is drawing to a close and I've had a lot of students submit artwork for it so I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight what they have been doing in their free time and how great of a job they can do one their own! To find out more about this contest go to and as an added bonus to this contest, you get to submit the students' work electronically!



Another contest I had been promoting to my students is the Take It Outside Art Contest. It is put on by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. And if there is one thing I am passionate about besides teaching and art, it's being outside! And since I gave my friend Emilee a shout out, this is my chance to brag about my friend, Molly the Naturalist! Now back to the topic at hand...this contest asks the kids to show themselves doing something they love outdoors (I'm a little jealous that I can't participate in this one!). It is a great opportunity for the kids to show off their interests while promoting being active and spending time outside. I even got to learn about their interests and was surprised by how many hikers and fishers I had in class!

Monday, January 14, 2013



Prepared. Respect. Ingegrity. Determined. Engaged

A lot of schools have enlisted the PBIS (positive behavioral intervention and supports) to focus on the good things that students are doing.  We have currently enlisted these strategies with our middle school students and so far it is off to a great start.

As a school, we have been preparing to introduce PBIS to our students for quite awhile.  A committee was formed to focus on the introduction and implimentation of the program.  The committee worked really hard on deciding how to best bring PBIS to our school and I feel fortunate that they asked me to help along the way. We wanted it to seem as appealing to the students as possible while maintaining simplicity and realistic goals for teachers.  We started by showing a video compiled of various photos of students modeling and instroducing their peers to the new acronym P.R.I.D.E. adopted by our school.  (This is when I got to help) As an art and photography teacher I helped organize the photos and got the students involved in that process.  Since the majority of the photos have the students' faces in them, I have opted out of posting them here but their cropped versions can be seen below. We went over the basics expectations and what it means to have P.R.I.D.E. in our school.  The students seemed very receptive and especially enjoyed our assembly at the end where they got to test their knowledge (and their teachers' knowledge) of P.R.I.D.E.

It's really refreshing to see the positive being acknowledged in our students and I hope that the strategies pan out!

Prepared. Students painted/created this puzzle and others pieced it together. 
 Lincoln Logs at their best...a house made with Respect!
 "Integrity" was written on a magnetic drawing board
 When flipped, the other sides of these papers formed a "D"
Our "E" was made of lunch trays
 Photographed as she manuevered the magnetic poetry around, a student defined each letter/word in our acronym
Finished version of the magnetic poetry

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Moose on the Loose

Classroom Addition

My latest classroom addition is courtesy of my cousin Bryan who gave me an inflatable moose head for Christmas.  My students have really been ooh-ing and ahh-ing over this one!  And there has been much debate whether it is in fact a moose head or a deer (personally, I defer to the packaging)