I chose to end the school year with my 6th graders with a sculpture unit. 6th grade is the highest level of students housed in my elementary school, so this week and next week's classes will be the last hurrah I have with most of these students. :( Next year they will move to the high school and begin a new art journey. For our final project we created fabulous 3-D letter sculptures using recycled materials and Plaster of Paris. I first found this project on the Art Projects For Kids blog done with papier mache. This project was the perfect fit for a group of "almost-high-schoolers" who are seriously ready for summer. I found this project to be simultaneously relaxing and challenging for my group of artists so it was a good fit for the tail end of the school year.
[caption id="attachment_1142" align="alignleft" width="300"] My teacher examples of the project. I will definitely use these as art room decor around the art room until I teach this lesson again next year.[/caption]
Check on my teacher samples of this project!
What I found most remarkable is that the students really seemed to be into the building part of the project and it was a good challenge for them to practice some serious measuring, troubleshooting, and craftsmanship skills. I prepared for this project by strategically sending out an e-mail to fellow teachers and staff requesting their old cereal boxes and cardboard toilet paper and paper towel rolls. I sent that email out last February and by mid-April I had the hundred boxes I needed. Thanks colleagues and cereal-eating friends! It feels great to recycle, doesn't it?
Day one of the project involved making a letter shaped armature for our sculptures. We started by breaking down our cereal boxes for construction. I had the students find the glued section of the box and run their finger down the edge to turn the box into a flat form. Then I had each student cut out the two large rectangles there were the front and back of the box and the two long skinny rectangles that were the sides. Next, each student chose a block letter tracer (I made the entire alphabet by hand on card stock weight paper) and traced it onto the two large rectangles. Older students could probably design their own block letter type, but I wanted to keep things simple for my 6th grade group. After this, the students took 3 mini toilet paper rolls each and cut them in half. The goal for the day was to get the cardboard armature taped together and all side planes covered with extra pieces of 2" cardboard strips.
The next day students came to art class was used to Plaster of Paris. Students loved this part because it was a chance to get messy and it is neat to witness the plaster transform from wet and weak to hard and strong. I encouraged each students to put on two coats of the Plaster of Paris, making sure to cover all of the cardboard armature and also to smooth the plaster so they have a nice, neat, non-bumpy surface to paint on.
On the third day, students put a base coat of paint on their sculptures and finished with unique coloration and pattern designs. Many of my 6th graders said they are going to make more letters this summer now that they know how.