Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Children and Art

I'm back from three days at the condo (I got to sleep in until 6:00! Three times!) and ready to tell you all about my Humanities class.

Some of the staff at MTHS warned me that students there tend to resent electives that aren't easy-A's. I knew the Humanities course I was planning was much more like a history class than a "just-for-fun" elective. So, I've tried to come up with at least one hands-on project for each unit we've done. I've also tried to take photos along the way so I can share!

Unit One: Pre-History

Cave Art

I hung butcher paper along the hallway outside my room and borrowed chalk from the art teacher to have the students draw symbols and icons for what's most important to them.

Unit Two: Mesopotamia


In small groups, the students created a comic-book style summary of the Epic of Gilgamesh (each group had their own tablet to do).

Unit Three: Egypt

Hunifer Grid

I laid a grid over this famous illustration from the Papyrus of Hunefer and cut the picture up into 1x1 inch squares. Each student got a 5x5 inch square to transfer their square into, without knowing what the final product looked like (I hadn't figured out how to print the original in color at school yet, so I let them pick their own colors - hence the crazy-colored product). An introduction to the Egyptian art style, the Book of the Dead, and also to the use of grid in art.

Book of Dead

I gave them a choice for their final project for the Egypt unit - either make your own Book of the Dead (with an account of your life, a description of your post-death journey, and an account of how you will be judged)

K's Death Project

or make your own tomb (containing a sarcophagus identifying you, pictures in Egyptian-style of your life, and models of any possessions you want in the after-life).

Unit Four: Greece

No photos this time, I'm afraid. I revived my Adopt-a-God project from DPJH and had them make PowerPoint presentations to cover the myths. They also worked in groups to describe their versions of a Utopian society when we talked Plato.

Unit Five: Rome

Aqueducts! 2

Big kudos to my dad for this idea and to my sister for the supplies! To demonstrate the physics of the Roman Aqueducts, the students hooked up IVs to bags of saline and played with gravity. This group was particularly proud when they figured out they could warp the tubes up around the legs of a chair and the water would still flow!

That was yesterday. Today we wrapped up Rome talking about mosaics and I turned them loose on this website to try to make their own. I also taught them about the "Print Screen" function so they could turn in their projects.

Some tried geometric patterns

while others tried to make a picture.

Their "This is hard!" comments made while they continued to click away, engrossed, made me very pleased with this activity.

With an exam on Friday and Rome wrapped up today, I hit my goal of getting us past year 0 by Midterm. Whoo!

By far their favorite project was the aqueducts. They asked if they could do stuff like that everyday. I told them that I tried to come up with something like that for each unit.

"Then we can do more!" Trey said. "Like... build a bicycle. You should give us supplies and we figure out how to make a bicycle!"

Laughing I said, "And how does that fit in?"

Trey and Nick looked at each other, thinking. "You mentioned the Renaissance. Are we going to talk about Leonardo da Vinci?"

"Of course."

"Then we can make a bicycle!"

"And flying machines!" Caedi chimed in.

Their enthusiasm for projects continued today. When I rejected their suggestion that I let them figure out how to build fire ("For pre-history!") and their pleas to show "Saw" in class (because I had cited it as an example of how people's taste for bloody shows hasn't changed), they kept thinking about it as I talked about the Colosseum today.

"We should build one of those," Nick said.

"A colosseum?" I asked.


"I don't think that'll go over well with the administration," I said.

"We can do it, like, underground. And then use it, like the Romans," he continued.

"An underground Colosseum? I don't have supplies for that."

"Nah, I mean underground like secret. That way the administration won't care."

"Ah. So the first rule of the underground Colosseum is you do not talk about the underground Colosseum?" My joke fell completely flat.

"It'll be awesome," Trey said, joining in Nick's dream. "We can spread sand and everything like the Romans."

"It would be interesting..." I said, playing along. "But who would be the emperor who decides who lives?"

Half the kids immediately volunteered; Nick vocally. "Me! I'm the one who came up with this project!"

"And who would be the slaves fighting for your entertainment?"

Seven or eight of the students said in chorus, "The freshmen."

If any of you have ideas for more aqueduct-y projects for the rest of history, do tell! I'm already planning on sticking paper on the bottom of desks to have them paint a la Sistine Chapel, but the Dark Ages come first.


  1. You are prolly the most awesomest teacher I know.

  2. Martha6:50 PM

    When you mention dark ages, I think of Ken Follets Pillars of the Earth. Maybe the kids could build cathedrals or castles out of sugar cubes? Flying buttresses and wooden roofs and such. And I agree, you are an awesome teacher.